Malaria is a serious illness that can cause severe symptoms and even death. It is caused by parasites that are spread by infected mosquitos, and it affects hundreds of millions of people every year. Young children (under age five) account for the majority of the ~600,000 deaths it causes annually. Though malaria is not limited to sub-Saharan Africa, that region carries the highest burden, with 95% of the world’s cases.

Reducing the transmission and impact of malaria calls for a range of measures, including mosquito control, strengthening health systems, and providing access to diagnostics and existing
drugs. On top of these strategies, vaccines are widely viewed as a critical tool for reducing the transmission of malaria – and ultimately eradicating it.  

An effective vaccine is not yet available, however, despite more than three decades of research. Now, to inform the design of new vaccines, researchers at the Kavli INsD are investigating the structure and interactions of the molecules involved in malaria
infection and immunity. In collaboration with other teams, they are using a range of methods, including X-ray crystallography, fluorescence microscopy, and sequence and phylogenetic analysis – which should provide valuable insights to help overcome
the challenges of malaria vaccine development. 


Our work in this area focuses on: 

Improving the design of malaria therapeutics, including vaccines and monoclonal antibodies (Simon Draper, Matthew Higgins)

Understanding the molecular mechanisms of vaccine-induced immunity to blood-stage malaria infection (Simon Draper). 

Investigating the molecular interactions that take place when parasites invade hosts (Matthew Higgins

Understanding how proteins from the surfaces of infected erythrocytes manipulate the functions of immune cells (Matthew Higgins

Understanding how malaria parasites compete their sexual cycle and how we can block this to prevent malaria transmission (Matthew Higgins