Malaria genetics and functional genomics of vector/parasite interactions leading to human malaria transmission
My scientific interest is on malaria transmission biology. Malaria is an infectious disease caused by the protozoan parasite, Plasmodium, and transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria affects almost half of the global population and kills 1-3 million people every year, the vast majority children aged below 5 in sub-Saharan Africa. I am leading the parasite group of the Vector Immunogenomics and Infection Laboratory (http://www.vigilab.org/) and my research is mainly focusing on malaria genetics and functional genomics of vector-parasite interactions leading to human malaria transmission. I aim to dissect the genetic, cellular and molecular interactions between the mosquito and the parasite, providing insights into how parasites interact with and evade mosquito defenses. The ultimate aim is to guide the development of novel strategies to control transmission of the disease.
1) Plasmodium sexual and sporogonic development in the mosquito midgut
(a) Developmental functional genomics of the model malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei; (b) Genomic and genetic dissection of the regulatory mechanisms of the Plasmodium ookinete-to-oocyst transition; and (c) Identification of parasite molecules that putatively interact with the mosquito vector and may function in mosquito immune evasion.
2) Human malaria transmission in Africa
(a) Functional genomic analysis of parasite/mosquito interactions in naturally interacting populations;(b) Characterization of similarities and differences in mosquito and parasite gene expression in various geographic locations; and (c) Identification of mosquito and parasite targets for transmission blocking interventions.
3) Mosquito local epithelial immunity
Cellular and molecular analysis of local epithelial responses of the mosquito midgut to invasion by the malaria parasite.
- Co-Investigator of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Research Grant 79729/20: Investigation of the impact of the mosquito immune system on shaping the transmitted malaria parasite populations (04/2020-03/2023)
- Scientific Coordinator and lead researcher in Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award to Prof George Christophides 107983/Z/15/Z: Anopheles-Plasmodium interactions: mosquito immune response and parasite immune evasion strategies (11/2015-10/2020)
- Co-Investigator and PhD student co-advisor of the MSCA European Joint Doctorate Programme: High Performance Computing in Life Sciences, Engineering and Physics (HPC-LEAP; 10/2015-9/2019).
- Joint grant holder and co-Investigator of the Wellcome Trust Project 093587Z/10/Z: Functional and population genomics of the Anopheles innate immune system and its interactions with malaria parasites (12/2010-7/2015).
- Co-Investigator and Work Package Leader of the FP7 Collaborative Project HEALTH-F3-2008-223736: TransMalariaBloc–Malaria Transmission Blocking by Vaccines,Drugs and Immune Mosquitoes: efficacy assessment and targets (12/2008-5/2013). http://www.transmalariabloc.org/team/dina-vlachou
- Co-Investigator of the National Institutes of Health (NHI) grant P01 AI044220-07: Innate immunity in vertebrates and insects (2005-2009)