Malaria is caused by single-celled parasites that replicate inside red blood cells, and that naturally 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 will help unlock important areas of parasite cell biology, from the regulation of development to parasite-host-mosquito interactions.
In our lab at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge (UK) we have been working closely with Dr. Julian Rayner and Dr. Marcus Lee and their teams to scale up Plasmodium genetics and to generate molecular tools for the research community.
While resource production will continue in Cambridge, to conduct genome scale screens in P. berghei and delve deeply into tranmssion bioligy, we have now opened a new laboratory at Umeå University in northern Sweden. Umeå has long been a centre of excellence for molecular genetics and pathogen research. It hosts Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, a member of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine.