Credit: CDC via Unsplash

UofG spinout company granted EU funding for development of a drug against malaria

By Denver Correia

Keltic Pharma, part funded by several UofG scientists, will use the multi-million Euro funding to develop its research into a drug treating malaria.

University of Glasgow spin-out company, Keltic Pharma, which was incorporated in February 2021, has been granted multi-million Euro funding from the European Union (EU) to further develop research into a groundbreaking new drug against malaria. The money comes from the EU Malaria Fund, a public-private partnership between the EU, international organisations, corporations, and organised civic society. 

Keltic Pharma plans to work on a drug capable of inhibiting a cellular protein necessary for the survival of malaria in the body. Stopping this protein from functioning is predicted to prevent the malarial parasite from multiplying in the body and advancing in disease pathology. 

Fundamental drug formulation at Keltic Pharma is expected to focus on a specific group of proteins called GPCRs (G-protein coupled receptors), with emphasis on a newly researched member PfCLK3 whose function was discovered in 2019 by a cohort of cross-disciplinary scientists, the majority of whom are from the University of Glasgow. 

The organisation has planned to have an academic team leading research at Glasgow with a business and commercial team based in Dublin. Keltic Pharma expects the dual research-commercial base approach to support combined innovation, deep target knowledge and corporate drug discovery expertise to deliver new receptor-based medicines, and a novel anti-malarial treatment.

The pharmaceutical research organization is co-founded by Professor Andrew Tobin (Professor of Molecular Pharmacology – Institute of Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology), Professor Graeme Milligan (Gardiner Chair of Biochemistry) and Dr. Andrew Jamieson (Reader – School of Chemistry), all of the University of Glasgow. Ms. Bonnie Dean, UofG Vice Principal (Corporate Engagement & Innovation), is a nominated director on the board of Keltic Pharma. 

Every two minutes a child under the age of five dies from Malaria, with incidence and mortality rates substantially higher in Africa, accounting for 94% of all recorded cases. The news of this research funding comes just after a go-ahead was historically given for the world’s first malaria vaccine to be rolled out across Africa on 6 October.


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