Dr Sasha V Siegel

Amplicon Surveillance Lead, MalariaGEN

Sasha is a parasitologist by training, and uses genomics to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of parasitism, which is one of nature’s most stunning examples of flexibility and adaptation for survival. She is particularly interested in developing strategic scientific products for targeted genomic surveillance, with her recent work primarily focused on malaria - the most important parasitic disease of humankind.

My current focus as the Amplicon Surveillance Lead for MalariaGEN is to lead the scientific programme of activity involving the end-to-end operations for the design, development and implementation of applied amplicon sequencing technologies to conduct large-scale genomic surveillance operations in malaria-endemic countries. We build genomic surveillance assays, analytical pipelines, web applications, and provide support to implementation operations. For more information, take a look at our work on the MalariaGEN Amplicon Sequencing Toolkit page.

Prior to that, I did extensive work on Plasmodium vivax, the second most common human malaria parasite. The high-level goal of my work was to develop methods and technologies to reliably discriminate between the three possible causes of clinical recurrent P. vivax infection – relapse, recrudescence, or reinfection.

I have also explored the unique evolutionary events that led to the emergence of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite when it “jumped” from gorillas to humans. I then worked on characterizing transcriptional diversity in Plasmodium vivax clinical infections.

I obtained my PhD with Dennis Kyle at the University of South Florida, where I led a project investigating how underlying mitochondrial genetic diversity contributes to a spectrum of phenotypic clinical resistance for mitochondrially-targeted antimalarial drugs. We also showed that mitochondrial mutations associated with resistance to these drugs can be successfully transmitted through the mosquito vector – making underlying mitochondrial genetic diversity (heteroplasmy) important to consider when developing new mitochondrially-targeted drugs.

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