Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski

Head of Parasites and Microbes Programme and Senior Group Leader

Dominic leads the Parasites and Microbes Programme at the Sanger Institute, which combines the talents and technologies of the Malaria Programme and the Infection Genomics Programme. His own research focuses on using genomics to probe the ongoing evolutionary arms race between parasites, mosquitoes and human populations that are afflicted by malaria, and on translating this knowledge into new strategies for combatting drug and insecticide resistance.

The battle against malaria is entering an exciting but critical phase. Thanks to the scaling up of control efforts worldwide, the number of deaths due to malaria has fallen dramatically. However malaria still kills over half a million African children each year, and ever-increasing levels of drug and insecticide resistance threaten to reverse the gains that have been made.

The focus of my research is to develop the genomic and computational tools to gain a deep understanding of how human interventions are driving evolutionary changes in the parasite and mosquito populations. My team’s holy grail is to use genetics to guide sustainable malaria control strategies that will drive down levels of drug and insecticide resistance and ultimately eliminate the disease. I am also interested in the mechanisms that underlie protective immunity to malaria, and particularly in using genetics to discover molecular interactions between the host and parasite which could provide vital clues for vaccine developers.

I studied physics and neurophysiology before training as a paediatrician and going to work with Brian Greenwood in West Africa, where malaria is a huge problem. My research career started out with clinical studies of childhood malaria combined with lab work on molecular pathogenesis and mathematical modelling of the disease. A move to David Weatherall’s Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford taught me about the power of genetics to dissect complex clinical and epidemiological problems. In 2005 I founded the Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network (MalariaGEN) which now includes well over 100 research groups in more than 40 malaria endemic countries. A key component of MalariaGEN’s work has been to establish principles for equitable sharing of data between partners in rich and poor countries, linked to capacity building in data analysis for researchers in malaria endemic countries. Complementary to my work here at Sanger, I direct the MRC Centre for Genomics and Global Health at Oxford University.

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