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Portland Business Journal: Portland biotech company awarded $3M to develop malaria drug
Author: Dennis Thompson, Portland Business Journal
Posted: April 16, 2014

Read the original story here in the Portland Business Journal.

A Portland biotech startup will use a $3 million federal grant to develop and manufacture a new anti-malarial drug.

DesignMedix Inc., a biotech startup with ties to Portland State University, has received nearly $3 million from the National Institutes of Health to work on the new drug over the next three years.

"Each year, over 600,000 children under the age of five die of malaria," said Dr. Sandra Shotwell, president and COO of DesignMedix. "Our new drug will provide another weapon to target this deadly disease, which kills more young children than any other."

The drug in development, DM1157, is hoped to become a low-cost cure for drug-resistant malaria that is as safe as chloroquine, a frontline drug used for many years until rendered ineffective by drug resistance.

Malaria has mutated into drug-resistant forms that are widespread in Africa and Asia. The mutation causes rapid transport of the drug out of the malaria cells, rendering the drug ineffective.

DesignMedix is investigating new drug technology that will slow the passage of anti-malarial medication through malaria cells, hopefully overcoming drug resistance.

DesignMedix will share the three-year grant with the chemistry lab of PSU professor David Peyton, who invented the technology and co-founded the company. Three patents have been issued relating to the drug molecules, and DesignMedix has exclusive rights to develop the technology.

"I am very pleased that NIH has continued to support this work in such a significant way," said Peyton, who has been working on malaria treatments for more than 15 years.