Meet the Scientists
Matt Higgins is Professor of Molecular Parasitology in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford and teaches at Merton College, Oxford. His research team studies parasitic organisms that cause human disease, aiming to understand how crucial molecules from these parasites interact with molecules from an infected human. A major interest is how the parasites that cause malaria get inside human red blood cells. If this process is prevented, the parasites are unable to replicate and cause disease. Matt’s research team understand the way in which these parasite molecules bind to their human molecular binding partners, and how antibodies generated by the defences of an infected human can prevent this. They then design molecules which mimic the critical regions of these parasite surface proteins for inclusion in vaccines.
Professor Simon Draper leads the Blood-Stage Malaria Vaccine group, based at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford and is a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow. He researches potential malaria vaccines, which aim to induce immunity to the malaria parasite while it is in the blood. The disease-causing blood-stage of the parasite’s life-cycle is known to be susceptible to antibodies. However, it has proved challenging to translate this knowledge into effective vaccine products. Simon’s group develops novel vaccine technologies and therapeutic human mAbs, to understand vaccine-induced immunity. His expertise includes pre-clinical studies, clinical testing, and human immuno-monitoring. His group has manufactured 9 new vaccines to GMP and undertaken 7 Phase I/IIa clinical trials- all first-in-human or controlled human malaria infection trials. They also assess the human antibody response to important malaria proteins, and this information can then be used to guide the rational design of new and improved vaccine candidates. Watch Professor Draper discuss progress in malaria vaccine research.
Professor Sumi Biswas is a Professor in Oxford University’s Jenner Institute. Her group focuses on pre-clinical and clinical development of vaccines, with funding including from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her academic work is directed against a range of vaccine targets, including malaria, Ebola virus and Zika virus. Her work on malaria focuses on the molecules which are required for the malaria parasite to fuse and develop within the mosquito, with the aim of using these molecules as vaccine components and to block transmission of the parasite from human to human. Two vaccine candidates developed by her group are currently being taken into Phase I human clinical trials and she is CEO if SpyBiotech, a company pioneering novel approaches to vaccine generation. Watch Professor Biswas discuss how we can block malaria transmission.
Sunetra Gupta is Professor of Molecular Parasitology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford. Her research team uses a combination of mathematical modelling, field and laboratory studies to understand how pathogenic organisms evolve. The theories developed can be used to predict the effects of intervention strategies such as vaccination. They can also be used to identify novel targets of vaccination, and members of Sunetra’s research group are currently developing a new vaccine for influenza based on a mathematical model of how the virus population evolves under the pressure of immunity in their human and avian hosts.