DesignMedix, Inc., a biotech startup with ties to Portland State University, received a grant for almost $3 million from the National Institutes of Health to continue development and manufacture of a new anti-malarial drug.
“Each year, over 600,000 children under the age of five die of malaria,” said Dr. Sandra Shotwell, president and COO of DesignMedix. “Our new drug will provide another weapon to target this deadly disease, which kills more young children than any other.”
The drug in development is a low cost cure for drug-resistant malaria that is as safe as chloroquine, a frontline drug used for many years until rendered ineffective by drug resistance. Malaria drug resistance — widespread in Africa and Asia — is created by a mutation that causes rapid transport of the drug out of the malaria cells, rendering the drug ineffective. The DesignMedix technology approach creates a new drug that inhibits the transport and overcomes the drug resistance.
DesignMedix will share the three-year grant with the chemistry lab of PSU professor David Peyton, who invented the technology and co-founded the company. Three patents have been issued relating to the drug molecules, and DesignMedix has exclusive rights to develop the technology.
“I am very pleased that NIH has continued to support this work in such a significant way,” said Peyton, who has been working on malaria for more than 15 years.
Several malaria drugs currently are available from large multinational and Indian drug manufacturers. Most current therapies show drug resistance, and some cost up to tenfold more than the cost projected for DesignMedix’s drug. This drug has high potential to be a good partner drug for existing or pipeline malaria drugs to both overcome drug resistance, and reduce cost. DesignMedix has partnered with Oregon Consultants Inc. (OCI) of Eugene, Oregon to produce material for preclinical and clinical studies.