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Vector-Borne Diseases and Tropical Public Health Group

Head: Professor Leanne Robinson

A highly collaborative multi-disciplinary research group established between the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR), Burnet Institute and the Walter and Eliza Hill Institute. It encompasses epidemiological, immunological and implementation research to inform the development and implementation of effective evidence-based public health programs to control and eliminate vector borne diseases such as malaria and lymphatic filariasis.

To address priority knowledge gaps, inform policy and scale up of new approaches to strengthen vector-borne disease control and accelerate towards the goal of malaria and lymphatic filariasis elimination.  

We aim to do this through:  

Innovative diagnostic, surveillance, and response approaches 

  •  Applying novel diagnostics and surveillance approaches to identify and target hidden reservoirs of infection that sustain malaria transmission
  • Strengthening integrated surveillance for rapid identification of resistant or emerging pathogens and vectors, as well as supporting the use of data for decision making and response
  • The changing epidemiology of malaria under sustained control and the complex interplay between host immunity and parasite transmission and the contribution of low-density infections to onward transmission 

New treatment and prevention strategies 

  • Evaluating new P. vivax malaria radical cure case management strategies to inform treatment policy 
  • Investigating new vector control strategies to prevent transmission of malaria and other vector-borne diseases
  • Strengthening the vector control workforce in the region
  • Assessment of transmission blocking interventions for Plasmodium Vivax  

Genuine partnerships that maximise impact and sustainability  

  • Engaging in fit-for-purpose, principles-driven partnerships with local partner organisations  
  • Contributing to workforce and systems strengthening at National and sub-national levels and supporting evidence-based policy change 

The working group employs a highly collaborative approach to all projects, working closely with a variety of partners in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Thailand, and Australia Key partners include PNG Institute of Medical Research, PNG National Malaria Control Program, James Cook University, WEHI, CSIRO Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, Beyond Essential Systems, Doherty and Menzies.  

We adopt an explicit partnership-based approach for all our implementation research and health systems strengthening activities, bringing together multi-sectoral partners and communities with different strengths, expertise and resources in order to maximise impact and sustainability. 

The research program actively supports over 50 early and mid-career researchers based at the Vector-Borne Diseases Unit at PNGIMR providing formal Honours, Masters and PhD opportunities, as well as a variety of informal training and development opportunities. 

Through the STRIVE project the Tupaia surveillance system has been rolled out at 8 provinces across Papua New Guinea allowing for monitoring of molecular markers of Artemisinin resistance in malaria parasites and insecticide resistance in Aedes mosquito vectors, which transmit dengue fever. During 2022 the Tupaia system was used to track an outbreak of malaria, allowing for tailored solutions to be created and implemented.  

The NATNAT project aims to generate evidence and implement novel vector control tools to control and eliminate malaria in PNG and the Pacific Region as a whole. In 2023 the PNGIMR Belna Natnat Centre was opened. The centre contains a laboratory, insectary, semi-field tunnel and experimental huts. The facilities will be used for new Phase 1 and 2 studies such as testing the efficacy of different residual spraying insecticide formulations for efficacy against local vectors and durability on housing materials commonly used in PNG.  

Our program has a focus on understanding communities and health service providers to maximise impact. Knowledge, perceptions, and practices related to malaria transmission and health systems acceptability of new malaria interventions is a key component of all our implementation research and programmatic activities. Tailored qualitative ethnographic methodology, such as interviews, structured observations, photovoice, and focus group discussions, are critical research techniques to complement and contextualise the quantitative scientific based evidence generated through the program. 


Professor Leanne Robinson

Professor Leanne Robinson BSc Adv (Hons) PhD MPHTM is a leading vector-borne diseases researcher. An NHMRC Fellow and Senior Principal Research Fellow, Leanne is Co-Program Director of Health Security and Head of the Vector Borne Diseases and Tropical Public Health Group in the Health Security and Disease Elimination Programs at the Burnet Institute.



Meet the working group. Together, we are translating research into better health, for all.


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Evaluating a highly sensitive rapid malaria diagnostic in PNG
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INDOPACLAB Nomin Presenting Indopaclab Needs Assessment Findings Ppt To Milne Bay Provincial Lab Staff Patrick And Sandra
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NATNAT: Newly Adapted Tools and Network Against Mosquito Borne Disease Transmission
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PAVE PNG - Partnership for Vivax Elimination
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Reaching zero-dose and under-immunised children in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea
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