Children in Africa

Under-the-tongue spray could cut child malaria deaths

By Claire Lynn - 18 December 2012

A new under-the-tongue spray, developed by scientists on the Norwich Research Park, could help significantly cut child deaths from malaria.

This disease kills an African child every 30 seconds and many of those die because they were unable to reach a hospital in time.  The spray, developed by LondonPharma, allows a child to recover sufficiently to survive the journey to hospital.

Clive Booles, research and development director at LondonPharma’s says the new spray treatment could have a real impact on survival rates.

He adds: “A child’s best chance of survival currently is to receive specialist drugs delivered through an intravenous drip, but this treatment can only be provided by a trained medical professional in a hospital setting. The spray on the other hand can be used in any setting and by anyone with minimal training.

“Children with severe malaria are often dehydrated and may even be comatose. Our spray has been shown to bring children out of a coma and within 24 hours, children will have recovered enough to eat and take on fluids. This means that once the spray is approved for use outside hospitals, children who receive it will be in a far better state of health to travel for further treatment.

“As it stands, there is no effective alternative for treating children with severe malaria closer to home, meaning thousands of children die during the journey to hospital. Our treatment offers these children a better chance of survival.”

The spray developed by LondonPharma contains a drug that is currently only used in tablet form to treat uncomplicated (non-severe) malaria. Trials have found that delivering this drug as a sublingual (under-the-tongue) spray has astounding effects on children with severe malaria.

Clive Booles continues: “When taking a tablet, there are several different factors that can affect how well the active drug is absorbed from the gut into the blood stream. Common treatments for uncomplicated malaria, such as artemether, seem to be particularly poorly absorbed when in tablet form, but delivering the drug as a spray overcomes these issues.

“The clinicians in Africa are amazing; they do so much with so little. Sometimes children are so severely dehydrated it is near impossible to insert an intravenous drip. If a child can recover enough to drink, this helps the clinicians considerably and the children themselves feel so much better.”

Phase Three trials are near completion and the spray - which does not require refrigeration - is expected to come to market within two years.

As a result of this progression, the company is explanding its business and moving from the Norwich BioIncubator to the Norwich Research Park Innovation Centre. These are two centres that house the commercial businesses on the NorwichResearchPark, including those with an interest in the pharmaceutical industry and drug development.

Clive Booles says; “Moving to the Innovation Centre will allow us to take on new members of staff and investigate other drugs which may be improved using a sublingual delivery system.

“We have heard that a high proportion of students from the University of East Anglia want to stay in the area once they have completed their degree. It would be great if we could attract some of these high-quality science graduates to LondonPharma.”

LondonPharma was voted the Oxford Bioscience Network's Best Emerging Biotech of the Year 2012 and its work has been made possible thanks to significant funding provided by Frank Timis. Frank is Chairman of the Timis Foundation and has a portfolio of businesses in the mining and oil industries. He has worked extensively in West Africa and has seen first-hand the devastating effects of malaria.

The company is also developing products for cancer, cholesterol reduction, pain, addiction and erectile dysfunction. These projects have either already reached the clinical trials phase or will reach this stage within the coming months.

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