The project “Immunogenicity of synthetic peptide malaria vaccines” spans five years and is designed to study the protection offered by various synthetic vaccines against malaria. Cathrine Persson is collaborating with Professor Elizabeth Nardin, NYU School of Medicine in New York.
The funding is being provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the NIH, a federal body that both pursues and provides support for various types of medical research in the U.S. and abroad. The competition for this funding is extremely stiff, and it is not often that scientists in Sweden are selected for grants. The application submitted by Cathrine and her associate was given high scores in the assessment process. Malaria is a major world health problem, and there is no vaccine at present.
“It’s our hope that we will be able to come up with an effective vaccine. This would be a tremendous breakthrough in efforts to develop protection against malaria,” says Cathrine Persson.
Malaria claims several millions of human lives every year and is caused by a group of single-cell parasites (so-called protzoas) that are transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. People who live in malaria-infested areas develop antibodies against the Circumsporozoite protein (CS), a protein on the surface of the malaria parasite. Owing to the ability of CS to stimulate our immune defense, it is included in several trial vaccines that have been tested on humans. A major problem with all vaccine trials is that there is no good way to measure to what extent an individual has developed protection against malaria after being vaccinated. By constructing hybrid parasites that contain parts of the CS protein, Cathrine Persson’s research aims to show what parts of CS are best at stimulating our immune defense. The hybrid parasites will moreover be used as a tool to analyze the outcome of vaccination trials.