At the core of malaria biology is a longstanding evolutionary arms race between Plasmodium, Anopheles and human populations. This is still ongoing and has a major impact on disease control efforts. Plasmodium populations are continually evolving to resist antimalarial drugs and to evade the human immune system, while Anopheles populations are continually evolving to resist the insecticides used in vector control. The remarkable ability of both parasite and vector to thwart public health interventions by evolutionary adaptation represents a major obstacle to malaria elimination. The other side of the coin is that malaria has exerted strong selective pressure on the human genome and this has led to natural mechanisms of disease resistance that, if better understood, could provide critical insights into how to develop an effective vaccine.
Our research goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the genetic and molecular mechanisms that underlie these evolutionary processes, and to translate this scientific understanding into actionable knowledge that will lead to more effective and sustainable strategies for disease elimination and vaccine development.