Malaria Vaccines Pregnancy
Education and Training
PhD in Cell Biology 1998 – 2001
Imperial Cancer Research Fund,
University College London,
Bachelor of Science, First Class Honours 1992 – 1996
Department of Biology,
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Postdoc training: McGill University (2004-2006), California Institute of Technology (2001-2003)
Cross-appointment: Dept. of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Alberta
Institute affiliations: WCHRI, Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology
Research collaborations within the University of Alberta:
Research collaborations with other academic institutions:
Collaborations with governmental organizations:
2020-2025 National Institutes of Health (NIH). ‘Exploiting a cross-reactive epitope in Plasmodium vivax PvDBP to develop a vaccine against falciparum placental malaria’. (PI) $1,943,922 USD.
2020-2025 Canadian Institutes of Health Research. ‘Exploiting a cross-reactive epitope in Plasmodium vivax PvDBP to develop a vaccine against falciparum placental malaria’. (PI) $812,196.
2017-2022 NSERC Discovery Grant. ‘DBL protein function in P. chabaudi invasion and cytoadhesion’. (PI) $156,000.
My research program is focused on various aspects of malaria from basic pathogenesis to translational development of vaccines. A major focus of our work is on the interactions between malaria parasites of different species and the host immune system, particularly during infection in pregnancy. From our field work with colleagues in Uganda, Colombia and Brazil, one of our major discoveries was that exposure to Plasmodium vivax can elicit protective antibodies against P. falciparum in pregnancy, which may lead to improved birth outcomes. My team is now studying the mechanism of cross-species immunity with a major goal to exploit these findings for vaccine development. In other recent work, we are developing ex-vivo models of placental malaria to study host-parasite interactions in this microenvironment. We are specifically interested in the role of exosomes in mediating these interactions and the downstream physiological effects of parasite sequestration on the placenta.
The aim of this course is to enable students to increase their understanding of historical and current determinants of global health and of the interventions to reduce global health inequities. Note: Credit may not be obtained for both PHS 640 and SPH 640.
The goal of this project is to exploit natural cross-immunity between P. vivax and P. falciparum antigens that we observed in Colombia and Brazil to develop a vaccine against P. falciparum placental malaria. We are mapping the epitopes that induce cross-reactive antibodies and employing synthetic chemistry, structural biology, and computational modeling strategies to design vaccine candidates. Collaborators: Dr. John Adams, University of South Florida; Dr. Eliana Arango and Dr. Amanda Maestre, U de Antioquia, Colombia; Dr. Michael Good, Griffith University, Australia.
We apply molecular diagnostics to investigate the prevalence and parasite dynamics of P. falciparum and P. vivax during pregnancy within a low transmission setting in Colombia. We recently completed a longitudinal study of pregnant women in Colombia and are studying the effects of infections in pregnancy on host immunity and clinical outcomes at delivery. We are particularly interested in how submicroscopic infections are controlled by maternal immunity. Collaborators: Dr. Eliana Arango and Dr. Amanda Maestre, U de Antioquia, Colombia.
We are developing an ex-vivo model of placental malaria using placental villi and cultured P. falciparum parasites. With this model, we are studying the effects of parasite cytoadhesion on the physiology of the placenta, the role of host and parasite exosomes on cytoadhesion and immune cell recruitment, and the regulation of the syndecan-1 receptor. We are also using this model for pre-clinical testing of antibodies raised against our vaccine candidates. Collaborators: Dr. Denise Hemmings, U of Alberta; Dr. Hernando del Portillo and Dr. Carmen Fernandez at ISGlobal, Barcelona.