NEWS Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation grants Oliver Billker, professor and newly appointed director of The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Umeå University, SEK 30 million to study gene functions of malaria parasites.
"I am very grateful for this support. It is through this kind of generous and long-term funding that we will be able to ask big questions and to bring in the new technologies that we need to answer them," says Oliver Billker, who has recently been recruited as professor of biotechnology at Umeå University.
Oliver Billker's research wants to better understand the biology of malaria parasites in order to find new strategies against malaria. Malaria is a disease that causes an enormous suffering in the world, especially in countries with limited financial resources and poor healthcare.
Malaria kills nearly half a million people every year, of which most are children. The disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, is caused by parasites that grow inside the patient's red blood cells.
"In order to fight malaria, we need to gain a deeper understanding of how the parasite works. This is a prerequisite for developing new medicines and vaccines against the disease. Our unique approach is to study all parasite genes at once to find those that are important for the parasite to grow and to infect mosquitoes. Among these genes, we are trying to find targets for the new drugs and vaccines that we urgently need to prevent disease and transmission," says Oliver Billker.
The Umeå University Management is pleased to find out that Oliver Billker has been awarded this grant.
"This is a proof that he is conducting high quality research, which shows that MIMS and Umeå University have made a successful recruitment. The funding also increases the possibility to understand and combat parasitic diseases," says Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor of Umeå University.
Oliver Billker was born in Lüneburg, Germany in 1969. After completing his biology studies in Berlin, he graduated from his doctoral studies at the University of London in 1999. Oliver Billker was postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin from 1999–2002. In 2003, he became Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College and five years later Principle Researcher. In 2007, he became a research leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and one of the leading researchers for the PlasmoGEM project in the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Malaria Program.
Since September 2018, Oliver Billker is professor of biotechnology specialising in molecular genetics at Umeå University. He is currently director of MIMS, The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden at Umeå University.
Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is the largest private research funding body in Sweden. The Foundation supports long-term basic research that benefits Sweden and gives researchers complete freedom to formulate and test their hypotheses. In its board decision, the Foundation grants a total of SEK 640 million to 22 research projects in medicine, science and technology – project that are considered to have the potential of leading to scientific breakthroughs in the future.