Dutch biopharmaceutical group Crucell and UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline have entered into an alliance to develop a second-generation vaccine candidate for malaria.

Crucell said this morning that it has signed a binding letter of agreement with GSK Biologicals under which the firms will develop a new vaccine combining the former’s recombinant malaria vaccine candidate, Ad35-CS, with the latter’s late-stage malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S/AS.

The move comes on the back of preclinical studies that indicate a combination of both companies’ technologies is more effective than either component alone, and the groups are now intending to progress this concept into human clinical studies.

Crucell and GSK Biologicals will look for third party funding to advance the Ad35-CS and RTS,S/AS prime-boost candidate into a Phase I/IIa clinical challenge trial in the US, and if this is successful then the intention is that further development will be supported by public or non-profit partners interested in accelerating the vaccine’s development.

Malaria claims around 900,000 deaths every year, and Ronald Brus, Crucell’s chief executive, said his group is “very excited” about the collaboration with GSK, “which brings new impulse to the potential of eradicating malaria as one of the top three killers in the world”.