Discovery of new drug targets in tropical parasites

Malaria and Sleeping sickness (Human African trypanosomiasis) are tropical diseases of developing countries that are caused by protozoan parasites. The infections are transmitted by fly or mosquito vectors, and are fatal if untreated. Current treatment options are unsatisfactory due to toxicity, emerging resistance and impractical administration requirements in resource-poor tropical countries. There is a pressing need to discover new drug targets to facilitate the development of new medicines for malaria and HAT. Protozoan parasites possess many unique genes and metabolic pathways that enable the parasite to survive in the diverse nutritional environments of the insect vector and the mammalian host. The aim of this project is to discover unique aspects of parasite and host metabolism that will enable discovery of new and safer drugs.

This project will utilise advanced LC-MS based metabolomics technologies in combination with bioinformatics and biochemical studies to elucidate interactions between antiparasitic compounds and metabolic pathways. The specific aims of this project are:
1) to identify novel roles for genes of unknown function,
2) to characterise novel metabolites and determine metabolic pathways responsible for their production, and
3) to identify drug targets for novel antiparasitic compounds.