Infection, Immunology & Translational Medicine (IITM) Oxford

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Malaria vaccines on display at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

The Royal Society’s annual summer science exhibition took place last week (2nd-8th July) in London and a team of researchers from the University where there to present exciting advances in the race to develop a vaccine against malaria. Second year IITM student Rob Ragotte was part of the presenting team, led by Professors Matt Higgins (Dept. of Biochemistry), Simon Draper and Sumi Biswas (Jenner Institute – Nuffield Dept. of Medicine).



The team were there to talk about their most recent data on an experimental malaria vaccine. Most malaria infections in humans are caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The Draper and Biswas groups have identified as a leading malaria vaccine candidate a protein on the surface of the parasite, called RH5. The group has designed a vaccine that targets RH5, which is now being tested in humans. The Higgins group have simultaneously been working to solve the protein structure of RH5 as well as the human protein it binds to, basigin

3D printed models of RH5 and basigin were developed to explain how the vaccine works as well as two interactive games for visitors to try to identify other proteins on the parasite surface which might be suitable vaccine targets and to explore how a vaccination campaign might impact spread of disease amongst populations. An estimated 10,000 people visited the exhibition, from members of the public to MPs and eminent scientists.


They also developed a short video which summarises the key points of their research:


Further work to test the vaccine in the UK and in malaria-endemic countries is currently underway. The interactions between antibodies isolated from immunized volunteers and the RH5 protein are also being mapped to hopefully improve vaccine design and to develop novel therapeutics.

Rob undertook rotations in both the Higgins and Draper labs before settling at the Jenner Institute for his DPhil project. Rob is working to develop adeno-associated viruses as a platform to deliver monoclonal antibodies, such as those against RH5, as a gene therapy against malaria.


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