A research program that aims to better understand malaria infection and develop treatments and vaccines for the disease has today been awarded $12.7 million (US$11.5 million) by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
The grant will support research between the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's Infection and Immunity and Bioinformatics divisions, the Burnet Institute and the University of Melbourne.
It was one of 10 NHMRC Program Grants announced this morning by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, the Hon. Mark Butler.
Professor Alan Cowman, Professor Terry Speed, Dr Louis Schofield and Dr James Beeson from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will investigate multiple aspects of malaria infection with Professor Brendan Crabb at the Burnet Institute and Dr Geoff McFadden from the University of Melbourne.
Each year more than 400 million people contract malaria, and more than two million people, mostly children, die from the disease. The most lethal form of the disease is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
Professor Cowman said the research program would look at how the parasite causes disease and how the human body responds to malaria infection.
"We will explore how the parasite identifies, invades and remodels the host cells in which it lives, scavenging nutrients and hiding from the immune system," Professor Cowman said. "We will also investigate how the human host responds to this infection as understanding this is the key for development of efficacious vaccines.
"The drugs used to treat and control malaria have become increasingly ineffective due to the parasite's ability to develop resistance. It is therefore vital we understand how the parasite is evading the lethal effect of these drugs if we are to develop new antimalarials that are more effective."