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New NIAID program focuses on interactions between immunology and the biology of the malaria parasite

NIAID has initiated the new Malaria Infection Biology Research and Training Program, headed by Susan Pierce, Ph.D., Chief, Laboratory of Immunogenetics, Division of Intramural Research. The team’s goal is to improve scientific understanding of the interactions among the immune systems of human and mosquito hosts and the most deadly malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum.

Only a small number of scientists have training and expertise in both immunology and the biology of the malaria parasite and study how the two relate. When it begins accepting applications in spring 2009, the Malaria Infection Biology Research and Training Program will conduct cutting-edge research to understand the cellular and molecular interactions of the immune system and P. falciparum and train the next generation of research scientists in this important and growing field.

Research discoveries made in malaria infection biology promise to benefit vaccine development efforts, according to Dr. Pierce. Results from basic science studies show that pathogens for which we do not yet have vaccines can both escape and thwart immune responses by a variety of mechanisms. Therefore, developing vaccines for such pathogens is unlikely to be straightforward. The work will require a better understanding of the biology of the pathogen as well as a sophisticated knowledge of the human immune system at both the cellular and molecular levels. Research in malaria infection biology also has the potential to inform strategies to develop new antimalarials that complement the effects of vaccine.

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Last Updated April 23, 2009