Swiss drugmaker Novartis said it has launched a research project aimed at finding new drugs against malaria, with funding from non-profit organisations.

The partnership includes the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, which will contribute its expertise in discovering medicines that treat tropical diseases such as dengue fever or tuberculosis; the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity; and the Singapore Economic Development Board and Medicines for Malaria Venture, a nonprofit organisation. The group has set aside around $20 million for the project.

Novartis was asked to join the public-private partnership because of its expertise in tropical diseases that has already led to the development of one malaria drug, called Coartem (artemether and lumefantrine), which it provides to developing countries at cost.

Research at the Singapore-based NITD will focus on the development of a one-dose cure for Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous form of malaria, and a curative modality for Plasmodium vivax, the most frequent and widely distributed cause of malaria.

Malaria kills a million people a year and blights the lives of 300 to 500 million people around the world.