Malaria is one of the world’s leading health problems and particularly affects young children and pregnant women. Additionally, malaria severely impedes education, equity and economic development in endemic countries. Combating malaria is an explicit target in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Progress in reducing the global burden of malaria has stalled since 2015, with a risk of further increases in the coming years. Plasmodium falciparum, causes most clinical cases and deaths globally, however P. vivax also causes a high burden of disease, especially in the Asia and Pacific region.
There is an urgent need for effective vaccines, new drugs for treatment, new prevention strategies, and improvements in diagnosis and surveillance. Our broad objectives are to accelerate progress towards elimination of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax through i) development of new highly protective and long-lasting vaccines, ii) developing and supporting the implementation of novel approaches for malaria surveillance, and iii) developing and evaluating new interventions in malaria-endemic populations.
Our research is aimed at understanding the targets and mechanisms of protective immunity to malaria in humans, and how protective immunity is acquired and maintained over time. This includes evaluation of immune responses that develops through natural infection or generated by malaria vaccines in clinical trials and pre-clinical studies. We work with partners in malaria-endemic countries to study immune responses in children and adults, including pregnant women.
We use cutting-edge assays and approaches to dissect and understand immune responses in vaccine trials and clinical studies. We developed novel platforms as a powerful new strategy for identifying and refining antigens for vaccine development for P. falciparum and P. vivax, overcoming existing roadblocks. We work with large multi-centre studies of people in malaria endemic regions, including analysis of malaria vaccine trials. We investigate the immune mechanisms and clinical factors that determine long-lasting vaccine immunity, and to understand the causes of poor vaccine responses that are seen in subgroups of people. To achieve our goals and maximise the impact of our work, we collaborate extensively nationally and internationally.
In parallel with our studies of immunity, we work on developing next generation vaccines for malaria. By determining the key targets and mechanisms of protective immunity against P. falciparum and P. vivax, we design vaccines to generate potent and long-lasting immune responses to achieve high levels of protection against malaria. Our research generates new knowledge on malaria vaccine responses and duration in children that will enable the development of next-generation vaccines with sustained protection for malaria elimination. Our research also informs new approaches for maximising the impact of current vaccines that are commencing implementation, including practical interventions to enhance vaccine responses in children in malaria-endemic settings.
Our work also contributes to developing sensitive antibody biomarkers that detect hidden malaria reservoirs and identify populations at risk of malaria rebound. Integrate these approaches into population surveillance systems can increase the precision of malaria control and elimination programs.
Our program addresses critical roadblocks to achieving malaria elimination goals across all regions that will have potential for major impacts for malaria-endemic communities. New vaccines that generate highly protective and long-lasting immunity would be transformative for achieving malaria elimination.
We also apply our research to the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program in Papua New Guinea, where malaria carries a high burden. This is a collaborative research program aimed at providing life-saving interventions and health care for women and young children in PNG.
Additionally, our program provides training and professional development for research students and research scientists and advancing the careers of the next generation of research and translation leaders.
is a collaborative research program aimed at providing life-saving health care for women and children in PNG.
Meet the working group. Together, we are translating research into better health, for all.