My research is about genome scale approaches to understand the biology of malaria parasites and how they interact with the mosquitoes that transmit them.
Malaria is caused by single-celled parasites that replicate inside red blood cells, and that naturally can only be transmitted by mosquitoes. We want to reveal the hidden and fascinating biology of these important organisms, so that it can be exploited by new drugs and vaccines.
Preconceived ideas can get in the way of new discoveries. We have therefore developed molecular tools to interrogate the functions of thousands of parasite genes simultaneously and in an unbiased manner. Now we can conduct genome-scale genetic screens in Plasmodium berghei, a species of parasite that only infects rodents and that we can study safely and easily at all stages of its life cycle. We transfer concepts for the effective discovery of gene functions from model organisms like yeast, to malaria parasites. This will help unlock important areas of parasite cell biology, from the regulation of development to parasite-host-mosquito interactions. Our discoveries have in many instances helped the research into new drugs and vaccines.