16 minutes News

16 Minutes #63: Man, Mosquito, Malaria Vaccine

Jorge Conde, Rajeev Venkayya, and Sonal Chokshi

Posted May 1, 2021

Playing out against the backdrop of a global pandemic (including recent massive surges in regions around the world) is the news that came out a week ago that a candidate “malaria vaccine becomes first to achieve WHO-specified 75% efficacy goal”. While the findings are still in preprint with The Lancet, the resulting buzz and phrases quoted included everything from “unprecedented”, “groundbreaking work”, and “very exciting” to “high expectations”, “highly effective”, and “a hugely significant extra weapon”… A “weapon” in the war against malaria that is — a disease that is estimated to cause over 400,000 deaths each year globally, and predominantly in children under the age of five.

So in this special 2x explainer episode of 16 Minutes (also running on the a16z Podcast), we —Rajeev Venkayya of Takeda Pharmaceuticals, a16z bio general partner Jorge Conde, and Sonal Chokshi — dig into what’s hype/ what’s real about this news, beyond the headlines and beyond the buzz. What does the data tell us, what does the current study phase mean, and what’s left to get to widespread, real-world use? How does this candidate vaccine (R21 from Jenner Institute/ Oxford University) compare to the other malaria vaccine (RTS,S from GlaxoSmithKline)? How do, and don’t, advances in and around COVID vaccines play here? And why has it been so hard to develop vaccines for this particular disease?

Because we also cover (as is the premise of the show) where we are on the long arc of innovation… and this is an innovation story that’s been nearly a century in the making.


image: Barry Pousman / Flickr

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