Better malaria protection for everyone!

Safe and efficacious tools to shield us from malaria are critical in the fight against this deadly disease. Using insect repellents is one of the recommended key measures to limit mosquito-borne diseases.

Staying clean – from mosquito bites

Now imagine in a malaria endemic region that a daily lotion could provide you with all day protection against mosquito bites. Imagine if this product was specially formulated to give a smooth pleasant application, and released slowly over time with a reduced skin penetration making it safe for use by all, including the most vulnerable population: pregnant women and babies. 

Together with our partners, we strive daily to make this a reality and to provide this vulnerable group with safe and effective tools that can help prevent this deadly disease.  

Did you know?

  • 247M

    malaria cases worldwide, with an estimated 619,000 malaria deaths globally in 2021. [1]

  • 3.2bn

    people, almost half the world’s population, are at risk of getting infected with malaria. [1]

  • 14hrs

    could be the maximum bite protection offered by using an effective insect repellent.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vector control is the main approach to prevent malaria and reduce transmission.  The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends tools such as insecticide-treated nets (ITN), indoor residual spraying (IRS) and insect repellent use for people travelling to or living in malaria-endemic countries.

However, pregnant women and babies are at particular risk because there is no repellent safe for daily use with long lasting efficacy (requiring minimal reapplication) and which is pleasant to use.  And, although bed nets are simple and cheap and offer some night-time protection, the changing biting pattern of mosquitoes means they are becoming a threat at any time of the day.

Our company’s asset called IR3535® [2] could be one of the solutions. IR3535® is known to scientists as ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate [EBAAP]. It has been in our company portfolio for many years. Not only does it provide a safe way to protect our pets from ticks and other bugs that can transmit diseases such as Lyme, Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya [3] [4], it also discourages insects from biting humans.

“The key advantage of IR3535® is its safety profile, and being biodegradable, it is safe to the environment, too” explains Beatrice Greco, our Head of R&D and Access at the Global Health Institute.

Among several customers around the world, we have teamed up with US-based company LivFul and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana to conduct efficacy studies of a promising insect repellent technology intended for everyday use like sunscreen.  

Bitten by curiosity

The inspiration for the technology came from LivFul co-founder Hogan Bassey’s experience of growing up in Nigeria where malaria and other insect-borne diseases are endemic.

“By the age of ten, I’d had malaria at least four times, and no one tells you at that age you could die from it,” Bassey says. “Grown up, I got tired of how the disease was affecting me and those around me and felt that the current tools weren’t sufficient. I really wanted to solve this problem. So, I was driven to design an innovation to prevent malaria that fitted into my daily life.”

At the age of ten, Bassey started experimenting with home-made mosquito repellents on himself and his friends. One day, one of his home-made recipes worked. “I just didn’t realize it had already been invented a quarter century earlier!” he said, “but that was the beginning of the story and purpose of LivFul. We set out to design a system that makes insect repellent no longer a utility product, but an everyday toiletry used in people’s daily life – the way sunscreen is part of people’s daily lives in many countries.”  

What is...

...most important about insect repellents to you?

   

Genius in a bottle

When LivFul first set out to design the technology, they wanted something affordable and accessible to everyone, so they focused on taking existing insect repellents and reformulating them using a controlled-release technology to provide protection for longer.

The initial prototype was invented when researcher Tycho Speaker had a bad experience on a family camping trip with the then existing repellents working poorly for his young daughters. With his expertise in encapsulation chemistry, he developed the technology that is now known as STAYTEC™.

STAYTEC™ is an emulsion of water with a water-immiscible substance that forms a semi-permeable wall used to encapsulate the mosquito repellent. The active ingredient can then diffuse through the wall in a controlled manner. This has three main benefits:

  • The slow-release technology controls the evaporation of the active ingredient, enabling long-lasting repellent protection for many hours.  
  • Reduced skin penetration limits the potential absorption of the repelling agent in the skin, increasing safety and enabling the full quantity of agent to be used as repellent and not “wasted”.
  • The technology results in a formulation of a soft emulsion with a skin neutral pH, making it smooth and pleasant to apply and leaving an invisible protection that is not sticky, greasy or smelly.  

LivFul partnered to further develop the technology, the commercialization strategy, the long-term vision and product roadmap for the product category.  

Will malaria...

...be a threat to more people in the future?

   

Safety first – for nature, too

When testing the products in focus groups, there was a challenge.

“The way repellents are currently designed is for ad-hoc use – maybe three to five times a year on holiday; but in the endemic countries, we need a repellent that people can use regularly and feel confident to apply daily, that smells and feels pleasant,” says Bassey. That seems not to be the case yet.
 

Can IR3535® offer long-duration protection?

In a pilot study of the new IR3535® formulation, we have been evaluating its effectiveness against the female Anopheles mosquito which transmits malaria in human volunteers at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Ghana, a center of excellence that uses protocols based on WHO’s guidelines.

The first phase was to conduct ‘arm-in-cage’ studies where volunteer participants had repellent applied to their arm. They were asked to place their arm inside a cage containing around 200 female Anopheles mosquitoes at intervals over a period. Technicians then counted the number of mosquito landings and bites over a period of time, which indicated how many hours of protection the repellent provides.

“These initial studies showed that the longer lasting formula with IR3535® provided protection for many hours, with around half of participants not experiencing a single mosquito landing or bite,” explains Delalih Manteau, IR3535® Project Manager for our Global Health Institute. “Now we’re preparing to conduct the second phase of the efficacy study in Ghana, a natural setting study where the repellent efficacy is tested in the natural environment giving a more realistic exposure to the number of mosquitoes in everyday life.”

“Positive results will trigger the third and final stage – a much larger study in the target population where we will seek to establish a claim against malaria for future IR3535® based products” explained Greco.

Who can not...

yet adequately protect themselves against malaria?

   

Keeping everyone safe – literally with IR3535®

People in endemic countries do not usually use insect repellents; they lack the knowledge on prevention, miss the recommendations on protection from local authorities and pay much attention to the costs for the products.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends insect repellents as an effective measure to avoid diseases. In particular, WHO recommends the use of IR3535® to lower the risk of getting mosquitos bites that could transmit malaria [5]. We offer our solution to different partners to make a big difference in people’s lives.

Our shared goal with LivFul is clear: that the extended release IR3535® formulation could be used as an effective public health measure to prevent malaria in all populations including the most vulnerable ones: pregnant women and babies.

In 2012, the United Nations set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world. Three years later, these were adopted by all member states. We are committed that our work will help to achieve these ambitious targets. Our work on malaria prevention fits under ‘Goal 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages; Target 3.3 – by 2030, end the epidemics of communicable diseases including malaria.

Learn more about SDGs

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