Malaria box
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The box of 400 active drug-like molecules was distributed at no cost to researchers around the world. Photo courtesy of Malaria Venture.
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By Bobbi Nodell

In what is being called the first-ever test of open-source drug-discovery, researchers from around the world have successfully identified compounds to pursue in treating and preventing parasite-borne illnesses such as malaria as well as cancer.

Starting in late 2011, the Medicines for Malaria Venture, based in Geneva, Switzerland, distributed 400 diverse compounds with antimalarial activity free of charge to 200 labs in 30 countries. One-third of the labs reported their results in a paper published today in PLOS Pathogens, “Open source drug discovery with the Malaria Box compound collection for neglected diseases and beyond.”  

The results have ignited more a dozen drug-development projects for a variety of diseases. 

“The trial was successful not only in identifying compounds to pursue for anti-malarials, but it also identified compounds to treat other parasites and cancer,“ said lead author Wesley Van Voorhis. To help lead the project, Van Voorhis took a sabbatical from his roles as a University of Washington professor of medicine (allergy and infectious diseases) and director of the Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.  

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