Portland lab’s new malaria drug now in human trials

Health

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland-based drug developer is starting human trials for a new anti-malarial drug designed to overcome resistance to other malaria drugs.

The drug, called DM1157, was first developed by David Peyton, a chemistry professor at Portland State University and chief scientific officer for DesignMedix.  

A scientist at Portland State University Business Accelerator lab in Portland on September 19, 2018 (KOIN)

Peyton told KOIN 6 News his relationship between PSU and DesignMedix allowed them to get grants from programs that fund the company and the university.

Peyton designed the molecular structure of DM1157 based on existing drugs, which are becoming less effective.

Sandra Shotwell, the CEO of DesignMedix, September 19, 2018 (KOIN)

“Almost every drug used for malaria has resistance to it somewhere in the world,” DesignMedix CEO Sandra Shotwell said. “The malaria parasite mutates away, if the drug works, like here, and the parasite can avoid it, it will. 

Peyton’s students worked with him on the drug to find the best variants and then did test tube experiments and tests on mice. Now it’s ready for human trials. 

“A lot of drugs fail before they get to this phase and it’s typically because they turn out not to be safe,” Shotwell said.

The drug is now being tested on about 100 healthy volunteers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute in North Carolina.

“There are 200 million people a year who get malaria and of those, about half a million die,” Shotwell said. “The really unfortunate thing is most of those are children under the age of 5 because their immune systems haven’t developed very well yet.”  

DesignMedix said DM1157 is its first drug to reach the human trial step.

A scientist at Portland State University Business Accelerator lab in Portland on September 19, 2018 (KOIN)

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