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Malaria Institute's Global Debut

By Brian W. Simpson

Making its debut in the world of malaria research, the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute hosted a unique, multidisciplinary conference in late January on malaria science in the genomic era.

"We attracted the best people in the field," says Diane Griffin, chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. "The quality of the talks was superb."

While most malaria conferences focus on one or two fields, "Malaria: Progress, Problems, and Plans in the Genomic Era" covered topics in history, genomics, vaccines, parasitology, molecular biology, drug resistance, and mosquitoes. "We're dedicated to the idea of getting multiple disciplines within the malaria field together," says Griffin, MD, PhD. "We specifically invited people on the cutting edge, approaching things differently or doing the newest kinds of things."

More than 200 attendees and 30 speakers came to Baltimore for the three-day event that began Jan. 27. They came from all over the United States, as well as Sweden, Great Britain, Switzerland, South Africa, and Malawi. Researchers from the different fields enjoyed a rare chance to interact and exchange perspectives about the disease that kills 1.5 to 3 million people every year. "It was an opportunity to forge collaborations and to find out some of the latest work that's being done," says David Sullivan, MD, assistant professor in MMI. 

Conference speakers have been invited to contribute articles based on their presentations to a thematic issue of the International Journal for Parasitology. Hopkins MMI Professor Nirbhay Kumar, PhD, will serve as special editor for the articles.

Founded in May 2001, the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute welcomed its first new faculty member in February. Associate Professor Fernando Pineda, PhD, an expert in bioinformatics, has a primary appointment in MMI and a joint appointment in Biostatistics. Griffin expects to hire three or four faculty members this year, of the ten or more to be hired for the Institute.

The Institute has also announced plans to partner with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute to use its computer expertise to do advanced bioinformatics research on malaria.