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PATH-Breaking Malaria Research

By Jackie Powder

In the search for a malaria vaccine, Rhoel Dinglasan, PhD, MPH, MPhil, an assistant professor in the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, is at the forefront of a promising avenue of attack—a transmission-blocking vaccine that thwarts development of the malaria parasite in the mosquito. If a female Anopheles mosquito bites a vaccinated person, antibodies against a mosquito antigen called AnAPN1 are sucked up by the mosquito during the blood feed. These antibodies prevent the parasite from invading the mosquito gut. The mosquito itself is then protected from infection, blocking transmission of the parasite when the mosquito takes it next bite.

Dinglasan’s research is part of a new collaboration spearheaded by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), in partnership with the Bloomberg School and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, to support development of novel malaria vaccines. The initiative marks MVI’s first investment in transmission-blocking vaccine research.

Over the next 18 months, Dinglasan and his team will determine the feasibility of producing AnAPN1 in sufficient quantities to proceed to clinical trials, and whether the manufactured antigen creates functional antibodies. “Right now it looks promising,” Dinglasan says, “but too often it’s when you go from the lab to the field that you realize how things fail.”