FRONT PAGE: Promising New Antimalarial Compound Discovered In McMaster-Hamburg Collaboration

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Embargoed by Cell Chemical Biology until Wednesday, 27 October, 2021 at 11 a.m. EDT

Newswise — Hamilton, ON (Oct. 27, 2021) – A study out of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University has resulted in the discovery of a promising new antimalarial compound. Co-led by Gerry Wright (professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences), the discovery opens up the possibility of developing new medicines to combat malaria, which is one of the most deadly infectious diseases on Earth.

Collaborating with professor Tim Gilberger of the University of Hamburg in Germany, the researcher teams performed a screen of soil bacteria extracts for antimalarials and identified an extremely potent inhibitor of malaria development. We’ve seen a new light,” Wright, who was the first lead of Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats (MCMaster) said. Wright stated that “We’re looking into a part of Chemistry that nobody has ever seen before.”

This breakthrough in Cell Chemical Biology , is a crucial moment in global malaria management. Malaria resistance is a growing problem, Wright said. Climate change is driving malaria-carrying insects to new areas, increasing the disease’s spread. The World Health Organization estimates that malaria was responsible for more than 400,000 deaths and 229 million infections in 2019 alone.

Wright stated that duocarmycins, a family of compounds being studied, have been known to kill cancer cells and malaria for some time. However they are very toxic to humans. They are also very toxic to humans, so they should not be used as a treatment. There have been many failed clinical trials. Wright refers to these compounds as “anti-life” because they kill almost everything.

However, PDE-I2, the new compound molecule discovered by the McMaster-Hamburg team, appears to come with all of the potent malaria-killing properties of previously known duocarmycins — just without the adverse effects.

Wright stated that the discovery was a decade in making. It began when he and Gilberger were working together at McMaster between 2010 & 2014..

Since then, the Wright laboratory had been sending thousands of sub-fractions to Hamburg. Gilberger and his team would test them for malaria parasites at Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine. It took years of trial and error before researchers found the right molecule. Wright compares this process to finding the needle in the haystack.

” This novel compound is a useful scaffold to anti-malaria treatment,” stated Gilberger. He added that he is excited about its potential for systemic infections and its mechanism of action.

The Canadian Institutes for Health Research provided the main funding for this research study.


Pictures of Gerry Wright and Tim Gilberger may be found at

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