Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Malaya have established a new joint initiative focused on building capacity for research and development for vaccines targeting neglected tropical diseases in Malaysia and surrounding Southeast Asian countries.

“The initiative is in response to the excessive neglected tropical disease (NTD) burden in Malaysia and elsewhere in Asia and to address key gaps in biotechnology for these conditions,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Faculty at the National School of Tropical Medicine will work with the faculty of medicine of the University of Malaya, including the departments of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology and the Tropical Infectious Diseases Research & Education Center.

“Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) is particularly pleased to partner with the University of Malaya in this pilot project, which will increase resources against neglected tropical diseases, said Dr. Paul Klotman, president and CEO of BCM. “It may also serve as a springboard for larger endeavors, with the potential to reduce suffering throughout the world. Indeed, working with BCM, the University of Malaya may assume a leadership role in vaccine development, research and education in Southeast Asia.”

"The University of Malaya is very pleased to be able to team up with Baylor College of Medicine in this very important effort to develop vaccine technology for neglected tropical diseases, said Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon, vice chancellor of the University of Malaya. “This undertaking has the potential to greatly reduce the suffering of people living in the less-developed regions of the world. The University of Malaya is ready to take on this challenge and hopes that this will grow into stronger collaborative efforts with Baylor College of Medicine over time."

The major NTDs in the region include hookworm and other intestinal helminth infections, lymphatic filariasis, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, Plasmodium knowlesi malaria and enterovirus 71.

“There is an urgent need for new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for these diseases,” Hotez said.  “A key point is that the United States and Malaysia will collaborate to jointly produce new products for these conditions.”

The National School of Tropical Medicine at BCM got its start two years ago when the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine joined together to address neglected tropical diseases with vaccine development, clinical operations and education and training components.

The work in Malaysia leverages a unique relationship between Baylor, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Sabin Vaccine Institute in order to bring the first vaccine product development partnership (PDP) to the Texas Medical Center, while simultaneously providing new opportunities for the PDP to important scientific activities in Malaysia

The goals of the joint initiative will be to build capacity for translational research and development on the major NTDs affecting rural Malaysia and surrounding areas, learn the concepts of how to advance product development, especially vaccines for NTDs, and to build capacity for translational research and development and product development for NTDs in Malaysia, with an emphasis on doctoral and post-doctoral training.

“We estimate that one-third or more of the world’s NTDs occur in the nations comprising the Organisation of the Islamic Conference,” said Hotez.  

“We are excited to embark on this important new effort with Malaysian scientists,” said Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, Associate Dean, and the head of product development for the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

It is anticipated that success during the first three years will lead to an expanded international effort for joint projects for product development to address the major diseases of the poor in Southeast Asian, and also impoverished people living in the poorest Islamic countries of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.