Exploratory Research Targeting GWT1 for Treatment of Malaria

Developing new malaria treatment.
Academia or research institute 2
Government 1
Product Development Partnerships 1
  • Development of new malaria treatment.

What are the health needs and challenges?

A new treatment is needed against malaria which is endemic in many developing countries, as some strains of malaria pathogens are resistant to existing anti-malarials. It is estimated that in 2010, malaria caused over 650,000 deaths, mostly among African children.

Partnership activites and how they address needs and challenges

Eisai identified GWT1 as a target molecule in a development project for anti-fungals. Through joint research with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), it was found that the GWT1 protein is an enzyme which catalyzes acyl group transfer reaction, an essential part of the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) biosynthesis pathways. Some of these antifungal candidates were then found to show antimalarial activity through the joint research with Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University. Malaria research techniques, including the in vitro culture method and the animal experimental model, were transferred to Eisai from Kitasato Institute for further screening of antimalarial compounds in 2010.

In January, 2012, Eisai signed the material transfer agreement with Medicines for Malaria Venture in Switzerland for biological studies of antimalarial lead compounds.

Eisai and AIST successfully discovered a novel drug target in GPI biosynthesis pathway. Assays in Osaka University suggested the possibility of our anti-fungal compounds also acting on malaria pathogens with the same mechanisms. These results provided encouragement to start the current antimalarial project.

Lessons learned

It is important to find the “triggering knowledge” at the start of new activities, although huge amounts of time and effort are needed to achieve this. Effective partnership with external specialists can shorten the time to start new activities and guide the research in a proper direction.

Results and milestones

Eisai has clarified that its antimalarial compounds show sufficient antimalarial activities based on GWT1-inhibition, as shown by matching the results of the GWT1 assays (established with AIST) and the malaria assays.

Together with partners the company is now moving towards lead optimization to create compounds with clinical usefulness. Collaborative activities between MMV and Eisai were explanded to evaluate compounds screened out.

Geographic Reach
  • Africa
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • South-East Asia
  • Western Pacific
See Where
Disease Area
  • Infectious and Parasitic Disease
See Disease Areas
Target Population
  • Children
  • Women
  • People with low incomes
Partner organizations
Academia or research institute

Kitasato Institute

Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University


National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan

Product Development Partnerships

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)