Malaria vaccine development

Last updated: 27 May 2016

Status of vaccine development

Despite many decades of intense research and development effort, there is no commercially available malaria vaccine at the present time. RTS,S/AS01 is the most advanced vaccine candidate against the most deadly form of human malaria, P. falciparum. More than 20 other vaccine constructs are currently being evaluated in clinical trials or are in advanced preclinical development.

The malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S/AS01

A Phase 3 trial of RTS,S/ASO1 began in May 2009 and completed enrolment in 2011, with 15 460 children in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The final results were published in April 2015; details on the target age groups and the trial results can be found in our WHO Q&A.

In July 2015, the European Medicines Agency issued a positive scientific opinion on the vaccine’s risk-benefit balance. In October 2015, two independent WHO advisory groups recommended the pilot implementation of RTS,S/ASO1 in parts of three to five sub-Saharan African countries. WHO has adopted these recommendations and is strongly supportive of the need to proceed with the pilots as the next step for the world’s first malaria vaccine.

RTS,S/AS01 is being assessed as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to – and not replace – the core package of proven malaria preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures.

WHO activities

Tracking the global malaria vaccine portfolio

The WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research (IVR) tracks all clinical and advanced preclinical malaria vaccine projects activity in spreadsheets; updates are posted on the IVR web pages. These spreadsheets are known as the WHO Rainbow Tables and are compiled with help from funders, sponsors and investigators around the world.

Providing a forum for malaria vaccine stakeholders

WHO IVR acts as the Secretariat to the Malaria Vaccine Funders Group, which was established to facilitate exchange of information and opinions among internationally active funding bodies for malaria vaccine development. The group enables a better coordination of ongoing and planned vaccine research activities, and identifies areas of research that can be supported in a complementary manner. In addition, IVR’s Malaria Vaccine Advisory Committee (MALVAC) is a scientific group of experts that meets regularly to address a specific theme.