Biological Sciences

World Malaria Day 2019: A New Guide to Malaria Pharmacology

On World Malaria Day 2019, a new resource is available for malaria researchers - the Guide to Malaria Pharmacology has been developed in Edinburgh to facilitate identification of new drugs to combat the disease.

Female mosquitoes on foam
Female Anopheles mosquitoes, required for the spread of the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria.

Malaria is caused by the single-celled Plasmodium parasite, spread through bite of an infected mosquito.  It is still a devastating disease:  each year over 200 million people are infected and over 400,000 people die from it, many of them children less than 5 years old. 

There is no effective vaccine and incidence of drug resistance is rising.  There is still a significant need for new and effective drugs.

A new pharmacology database optimised for malaria research

The Guide to Pharmacology Database has provided researchers with information about existing drugs and drug targets, to aid development of new medicinal compounds. 

IUPHAR/BPS Guide to PHARMACOLOGY database – GtoPdb

Now, new work carried out by Prof Jamie Davies and his team in the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, has extended this database to include additional information about the activity and target interactions of antimalarial compounds, creating the IUPHAR/MMV Guide to Malaria Pharmacology - GtoMPdb. 


This new guide provides a searchable database optimised for malaria researchers, with details of potential drug targets in the malaria parasite, and the prescription medicines and experimental drugs that act on them.

This resource represents the first single purpose-built and open access portal, with expert curated information on Plasmodium molecular targets and the antimalarial compounds that act on them, including approved drugs, clinical candidates and research leads.  It is hoped that this initiative will facilitate access across the malaria research community to compound lead, target and efficacy data integrated from global R&D efforts.

Joint initiative

GtoMPdb is being developed as a joint initiative between Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR).

Medicines for Malaria Venture

International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology

The work to develop the new Malaria Pharmacology database has also received advice from an international expert committee, including leading Edinburgh researchers  Alex Rowe and David Cavanagh, both based in the School of Biological Sciences.

Malaria and Edinburgh

Malaria and Edinburgh have a long association. Most notably, it was here that Patrick Manson announced Ronald Ross’s discovery of the malaria parasite’s mosquito cycle at a meeting of the British Medical Association in July 1898.

Ross’s 1902 Nobel Prize awarded for this discovery is in the Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.

Edinburgh research combatting malaria continues to be world-leading, including research by Sarah Reece, David Cavanagh, Graeme Cowan, Phil Spence, Alex Rowe and Eleanor Riley addressing key questions in immunology and evolutionary biology. 

Read more about their work at the links below.

David Cavanagh - Development of malaria vaccines

Graeme Cowan - Antibody repertoires in malaria infection

Sarah Reece - Evolution of malaria parasites

Eleanor Riley - Immunology of malaria infection

Alex Rowe - Host parasite interactions in life-threatening malaria

Phil Spence - Development of immunity to malaria in children

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More information

Jamie Davies lab website

Centre for Discovery Brain Science, University of Edinburgh