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Fraunhofer IME's tackling malaria, HIV, rabies and tuberculosis in Africa

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2014-04-09 16:24:31 - Brussels: The 4th EU-Africa Summit took place in Brussels on 2-3 April 2014 and brought together African and EU leaders, as well as the leaders of EU and African Union institutions. EU-Africa relations are largely based on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which emphasises the importance of strengthening cooperation between the EU and Africa on Science Technology and Scientific Research for Development.

This commitment was reiterated in the conclusions of the 4th EU-Africa summit by stating the fundamental role of investment in research, science, technology and innovation to sustainable development of societies.

In this context, Fraunhofer IME would like to highlight its contribution to this goal. The main aspects of Fraunhofer IME's work with regards to Africa are projects tackling malaria, HIV, rabies and tuberculosis. All projects look at the production of vaccines and neutralizing antibodies as prophylactics against these diseases through the process of molecular farming.

Fraunhofer IME uses plants such as tobacco plants, bacteria and yeast to produce vaccines and antibodies at a very low cost without losing quality. These can be shipped as seeds and grown locally so that

medicines can be provided in Africa with no need for a distribution network or cold chain. Tobacco plants are especially advantageous because they are not food, grow well in tropical regions and are widely used in the developing world.

As Prof. Rainer Fischer, Director of Fraunhofer IME emphasises, "We generally focus on the needs of people in Africa. Due to the high prices of medicines for HIV, rabies or malaria, patients cannot be treated adequately. Vaccines and antibodies produced from plants grown in the region, for the region are therefore a hope for millions of people.”

Fraunhofer IME has been involved in and leading a number of research projects: Pharma-Planta was an EU Sixth Framework Integrated Project that was completed in 2011. Its primary goal was to develop an approved production pipeline for plant-derived pharmaceutical proteins (PDPs). Fraunhofer IME did coordinate this project and made significant scientific progress in the production of antibodies in genetically modified plants and plant cells.

Following the success of the Pharma-Planta project, Professor Rainer Fischer received an ERC grant for its work on plant-based vaccines for HIV/Aids. Within the framework of the ERC grant, the molecular farming was extended to other diseases like rabies.

Furthermore, Fraunhofer started the Malaria Project which aims to develop efficacious multi-stage malaria vaccine candidates as well as therapeutic and diagnostic antibodies against the parasite Plasmodium falciparum in microbial and plant-based expression hosts. The ultimate goal is to provide cost-effective anti-malarial treatment for developing countries in malaria endemic regions.

Most recently, Fraunhofer started acollaboration with Sanofi, a multinational pharmaceutical company, to identify new small-molecule drugs to tackle Tuberculosis among other diseases.

Building on these scientific accomplishments and in the context of the 4th EU-Africa Summit, Fraunhofer IME would like to call on the leaders of Africa and the European Union to recognise the importance of investing in science collaboration between the continents.

In order to improve health for citizens everywhere, Fraunhofer IME is looking forward to contribute to the process of EU-African science collaboration.

Media Inquiries

Declan Kirrane
ISC Intelligence in Science
Tel: +32 2 8888 100


Jessica Hadjis
ISC Intelligence in Science
Phone: +32 2 8888 100
Mob: +32 487 163 107

Editor’s Note

The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME conducts research in the field of applied life sciences from a molecular level to entire ecosystems. An interdisciplinary organization and laboratories with most recent equipment including GMP facilities and complex facilities for environmental simulations allow a wide spectrum of research and development services in the division Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology.

Contact Information:
ISC Intelligence in Science

Rue de Trône, 4
1000 - Brussels (Belgium)

Contact Person:
Jessica Hadjis

Phone: + 32 2 88 88 100
email: email


Pilar Gomez
Phone: 003228888100

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