Highly effective, R21/Matrix-M™ malaria vaccine developed by University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India awarded WHO ‘stamp of approval’
Highly effective, R21/Matrix-M™ malaria vaccine developed by University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India awarded WHO ‘stamp of approval’

Highly effective, R21/Matrix-M™ malaria vaccine developed by University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India awarded WHO ‘stamp of approval’

The R21/Matrix-M™ malaria vaccine is one step closer to mass rollout, after officially receiving WHO prequalification status, making it eligible for procurement by United Nations agencies. 

• R21/Matrix-M™ the highly effective malaria vaccine developed by The University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India, leveraging Novavax’s adjuvant technology, has been awarded prequalification status by the World Health Organization – meaning it is one step closer to being deployed in populations most at risk.

• This important regulatory milestone acts as a mandatory prerequisite for UNICEF to procure and GAVI to purchase the highly effective vaccine.

• The announcement follows an earlier recommendation issued in October by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) to approve the vaccine based on its robust efficacy and safety profile.

• The vaccine is easily deployable and can be manufactured at mass scale and affordable cost, with the Serum Institute of India already establishing production capacity for 100 million doses per annum, which will be doubled over the next two years.

Today 21st December 2023 the R21/Matrix-MTM malaria vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India, leveraging Novavax’s adjuvant technology, has been awarded prequalification status by the World Health Organization (WHO). This milestone represents a key step in making the vaccine accessible to those who need it the most. It follows the conclusion of a rigorous regulatory process and clinical assessment, supporting the vaccine’s efficacy and safety.

The prequalification moment comes shortly after the vaccine has been recommended for use by the WHO’s independent advisory body, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group (MPAG) in October 2023 for preventing malaria in children. The decision was based on pre-clinical and clinical trial data which showed good safety and high efficacy in four countries, at sites with both seasonal and perennial malaria transmission.

Professor Sir Adrian Hill, Director of The Jenner Institute, & Lakshmi Mittal and family Professor of Vaccinology, University of Oxford said: “Over 600,000 deaths mainly amongst children are caused by malaria each year.  The disease presents a uniquely difficult scientific challenge: the complex composition of malaria parasites with shape-shifting pathogen that has learned how to evade our immune system, has made the development of an effective vaccine a formidable task. R21/Matrix-M™ represents the culmination of 30 years of collaborative research and development by the University of Oxford Jenner Institute and, since 2017 in partnership with the Serum Institute of India.”

The R21/Matrix-M™ vaccine is licensed to the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer as well as a long-term partner of Oxford University. SII’s production capability is critical because vaccinating those at high risk of malaria will be important in stemming the spread of disease, as well as protecting the vaccinated.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, said: “Today's approval marks a triumph for science, collaboration, and our shared vision for a malaria-free world. This achievement inspires us to dream bigger, work harder, and strive towards a future where we can offer better solutions for the millions burdened by this disease. Together with Oxford, we envision a world where every individual, regardless of their circumstances, has access to the protection they deserve.

“This milestone is not just a validation of our efforts but a promise to those who have long awaited this news. The Serum Institute of India remains unwavering in its commitment to making this vaccine a global success, ensuring it reaches every corner where it may be needed. This is why we stand ready to produce up 100 million doses for the first year, which will be scaled up to 200 million doses (per annum) over the next two years.”

In clinical trials, the vaccine has reached the primary one-year endpoint in a pivotal large-scale Phase III clinical trial – funded mainly by the Serum Institute of India, with Oxford University as the regulatory sponsor – including 4,800 children across Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania. The Phase III trial results are now accepted for publication. Results showed the vaccine was well tolerated with a good safety profile. The efficacy of the vaccine over 12 months in 5–36-month-old children was 75% (95% CI 71-79; p<0.001) at sites with high seasonal malaria transmission and 68% (61-74; p<0.001) at the sites with more perennial transmission using standard age-based administration, with higher efficacy in 5–17-month-olds. 

John C. Jacobs, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Novavax said: “WHO prequalification for R21/Matrix-M™ demonstrates how strategic partnerships can come together to successfully protect global public health. Novavax celebrates this moment and is proud of the impact our Matrix-M adjuvant may have with this pediatric malaria vaccine in regions that need it most.”

The vaccine was developed by the Jenner Institute at Oxford University and Serum Institute of India with support from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (‘EDCTP’), the Wellcome Trust, and the European Investment Bank (‘EIB’). To date, the R21/Matrix-MTM malaria vaccine has been licensed for use in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

In combination with public health measures such as the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, this vaccine can help save and improve the lives of millions of children and their families and the extraordinary journey behind it has recently been documented by Wingspan Productions in association with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios. Expected to be broadcasted on the BBC in 2024, “The Battle to Beat Malaria” tells the inside story of this historic breakthrough, detailing the culmination of a decade’s worth of scientific research as well as providing an intimate look at the scientists, medics, pharmaceutical engineers, and trial participants battling this deadly disease.


Notes to editors: 

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact the University of Oxford press office at [email protected] or on +44 (0)1865 280528 OR Dr. Adriaan Louis Taljaard, Manager Strategic Communications (Vaccines) on [email protected]  

For media enquiries please contact: [email protected] (University of Oxford) and [email protected] and [email protected] (Serum Institute of India).

Video footage and b-roll is available here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/10684363 

 (Password: “R21”)  

Please credit: University of Oxford 

Images are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/q9mzu3lnn14t2lo/AAAca_qLkwkzlL9TQaJe0fq4a?dl=0 

Please credit: University of Oxford 

Video for embed is available here:  

WHO recommends Oxford vaccine against malaria 

Supplementary information:  

1.       Link to R21/Matrix-M™ malaria vaccine phase III trial results pre-print paper  

2.       Links to other related R21 vaccine publications  

3.       Link to Five things you need to know about the new R21 malaria vaccine 

For additional details around the “The Battle to Beat Malaria” documentary, please see here.

About the University of Oxford 

Oxford University has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the eighth year running, and number 3 in the QS World Rankings 2024. At the heart of this success are the twin-pillars of our ground-breaking research and innovation and our distinctive educational offer. 

Oxford is world-famous for research and teaching excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Our work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of our research alongside our personalised approach to teaching sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions. 

Through its research commercialisation arm, Oxford University Innovation, Oxford is the highest university patent filer in the UK and is ranked first in the UK for university spinouts, having created more than 300 new companies since 1988. Over a third of these companies have been created in the last five years.  The university is a catalyst for prosperity in Oxfordshire and the United Kingdom, contributing £15.7 billion to the UK economy in 2018/19, and supports more than 28,000 full time jobs.  

About The Jenner Institute 

The Jenner Institute, which is where the Oxford-AstraZeneca-Serum Institute Covid-19 vaccine was designed and first made, is based within the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and operates out of the Old Road Campus Research Building, in Headington, Oxford.  The Jenner Institute also supports senior vaccine scientists, known as Jenner Investigators, within many other departments across the University of Oxford, as well as externally with The Pirbright Institute in Surrey, UK. The Jenner Institute brings together investigators who are designing and developing numerous vaccines to generate an exceptional breadth of scientific know-how and critical mass, whilst still allowing the individual investigators to remain independent and accountable to their funders and stakeholders. 

The Jenner Institute is supported by the Jenner Vaccine Foundation, a UK registered charity and is advised by the Jenner Institute Scientific Advisory Board. 

About the Serum Institute of India PvT Ltd (SIIPL) 

Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd, is a global leader in vaccine manufacturing, dedicated to providing affordable vaccines worldwide. Present across 170+ countries, including the US, UK, and Europe, SII holds the distinction of being the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. SII's multifunctional production and one-of-the-largest facility in Manjri, Pune, with an annual capacity of 4 billion doses, has saved over 30 million lives over the years. 

Founded in 1966, SII's primary mission is to produce life-saving immunobiological drugs, with a particular emphasis on affordability and accessibility. Guided by a strong commitment to improving global health, the company has played a pivotal role in reducing the prices of essential vaccines, such as Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, HIB, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. Notably, they are the manufacturers of 'Pneumosil,' the world's most affordable PCV, and the first indigenous qHPV vaccine in India. Moreover, SII has been at the forefront of the global fight against COVID-19, delivering over 2 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine worldwide. 

To further expand its global presence and ensure widespread vaccine availability, SII has established Serum Life Sciences Ltd, a subsidiary in the UK. Through relentless pursuit of innovation, SII continues to champion the cause of affordable vaccines, making a positive impact on the lives of millions worldwide. www.seruminstitute.com 

About Novavax 

Novavax, Inc. (Nasdaq: NVAX) promotes improved health by discovering, developing and commercializing innovative vaccines to protect against serious infectious diseases. Novavax, a global company based in Gaithersburg, Md., U.S., offers a differentiated vaccine platform that combines a recombinant protein approach, innovative nanoparticle technology and Novavax's patented Matrix-M adjuvant to enhance the immune response. Focused on the world's most urgent health challenges, Novavax is currently evaluating vaccines for COVID, influenza, and COVID and influenza combined. Please visit novavax.com and LinkedIn for more information. 

About the WHO 

The World Health Organization (WHO) plays a singular role in leading the global health ecosystem, producing technical guidelines and tools to prevent and treat disease, and acting as a country-level convener with an unparalleled level of trust. The crises of the 21st century, including COVID-19, have made clear both the inequity of access to effective and affordable healthcare and the indispensable role of WHO. Yet WHO lacks sufficient resources to fulfil its mandate. And, beyond funding, its vision cannot be achieved by the public sector alone. The WHO Foundation was created as an independent Swiss foundation affiliated with but independent of WHO to marshal new resources from philanthropists, foundations, businesses, and individuals to support its mission: promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.