Malaria is caused by single-celled parasites that replicate inside red blood
cells, and that in nature can only be transmitted by mosquitoes. We want to reveal the hidden and fascinating biology of these important organisms, so that it can be exploited by new drugs and vaccines.
Preconceived ideas can get in the way of new discoveries. We have therefore developed molecular tools to interrogate the functions of thousands of parasite genes simultaneously and in an unbiased manner. Now we can conduct genome-scale genetic screens in Plasmodium berghei, a species of parasite that only infects rodents and that we can study safely and easily at all stages of its life cycle. We transfer concepts for the effective discovery of gene functions from model organisms like yeast, to malaria parasites. This helps unlock important areas of parasite cell biology, from the regulation of development to parasite-host-mosquito interactions.
The lab has developed protocols and resources for the research community that we now use to study thousands of Plasmodium genes simultaneously. We deploy these tools at scale and systematically to identify all the genes that malaria parasites need to survive, to develop to a particular stage or to get transmitted to mosquitoes. Our transdisciplinary team of molecular and computational biologists combines functional screens with single cell genomics, metabolomics and metabolic modelling to understand parasite development, evolution and interactions with mosquitoes.
We work in a brand new transmission facility at the Department of Molecular Biology at Umeå University in northern Sweden. Umeå has long been a centre of excellence for molecular genetics and pathogen research. We work in an international and well-connected environment that is part of Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, a member of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine.