Carnegie PhD Scholar awarded Robertson Medal 2023-24
Project Title: Dual pronged attack: identifying curative and transmission-blocking candidates in the malaria parasite
Malaria threatens over 50% of the world’s population and causes over half a million deaths annually, thus posing a huge global health challenge. Lack of effective vaccines and emergence of drug resistant parasites necessitates exploring new targets for therapeutics. Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which completes its complex lifecycle in a mosquito vector (sexual) and a mammalian host (asexual). While the asexual stage causes symptoms of the disease in the host, sexual stage development is required for disease transmission. Traditionally, genes essential for the parasite’s asexual development would be considered for curative therapies and genes necessary for sexual stage development selected for transmission blocking therapies. However, targeting proteins essential for both asexual and sexual stage development would provide a multi-pronged tool to simultaneously cure and prevent disease transmission. I recently developed a technology to examine precise functions of genes at multiple stages of the parasite lifecycle. Exploiting this tool and innovative proteomic methods, my goal is to identify signalling molecules that are crucial for both host cell and mosquito infection by the malaria parasite. This research will provide insights into basic malaria parasite biology and ultimately discover previously unrecognised therapeutic targets for both curative and transmission blocking strategies.
Awarded: Research Incentive Grant
University: University of Edinburgh