Malaria Targeted in an NHMRC Grant for Dr. Barry.

25 November

A new NHMRC grant will assist in the ongoing work of veski innovation fellow Dr Alyssa Barry who is researching the malaria parasite in different regions of the world.

Dr Barry, from the Burnet Institute, is one of the only researchers in Australia using population genomics to define the range and organisation of diversity of naturally occurring malaria parasites. Her research will help to build a global profile on malaria.

She returned to Melbourne in 2006 to establish her own laboratory after working in Oxford and New York with eminent Australian scientist Professor Karen Day, who is now head of the prestigious Department of Medical Parasitology at New York University School of Medicine.

A new three year NHMRC grant for $370,000 over 3 years will see Dr Barry using population genomics to investigate the diversity and dynamics of key malaria vaccine candidates.

The research will be done in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and will inform vaccine design and trials for the region. The PNG data will also be compared to similar previous studies in Africa, Asia and Latin America to place the research into a global context. Dr Barry will investigate DNA samples already archived in PNG from children infected with malaria.

There are some 600 samples to be included in the investigation. Dr Barry says the baseline study will look at what strains of malaria are present in PNG and how they are evolving.

She says the information may be used to design new and improved vaccines that will be effective for longer periods of time.

“Because veski has brought me home to carry out my research it has played a big part in giving me time to apply for grants and form new collaborations.”

This new research will be a collaboration with Professor John Reeder at the Burnet who is the former Director of PNG Institute of Medical Research and Dr Ivo Mueller who is currently based there.

The NHMRC grant along with veski funding will allow Dr. Barry to recruit a research assistant. As well a student from the Advanced Medical Science degree course at the University of Melbourne will help with the research next year.

Dr Barry will begin the new research early in 2008.

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