Vestaron Corporation, a venture-backed agricultural biotechnology company based in Kalamazoo, MI, has been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) to develop insecticides to control the spread of malaria by mosquitoes.
The grant, made possible through the Vector-based Control of Transmission Discovery Research (VCTR) program, a component of the Global Challenge Global Health (GCGH) initiative, extends over three years.
Vestaron is developing the next generation of environmentally compatible insecticides based on peptides isolated from spiders. These naturally derived insecticides will operate by mechanisms against which mosquitoes have not developed resistance.
"Malaria afflicts hundreds of millions of people globally and kills approximately one million children each year," said Robert Kennedy, Ph.D., Vestaron vice president of research. "We are grateful to have this opportunity to apply our technology to this important global health need."
Vestaron was one of four groups to receive grant awards totaling nearly $6 million through the FNIH New Insecticides for Malaria Control: Discovery Research for the Identification of New Chemical Entities for Vector Control of Malaria program. No new public health insecticides have been developed for malaria control for decades.
"Global eradication of malaria cannot be attained without development of more effective tools," said Professor Frank Collins, George and Winifred Clark Professor of Biological Sciences at Notre Dame University. "Development of new insecticides with novel modes of action is an urgent need."
The GCGH initiative is a major research effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs against diseases that kill millions of people each year in the world's poorest countries.
The goal of the initiative is to create health tools that are not only effective, but also inexpensive to produce, easy to distribute, and simple to use in developing countries.
GCGH was launched in 2003 with a $200 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to FNIH.
In 2009, FNIH received a 5 year, $24 million grant from the Gates Foundation to extend certain areas of research initiated under the original GCGH program including research to develop chemical strategies to deplete or incapacitate disease transmitting mosquito populations supported by the VCTR program.