School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Sciences
Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.
Malaria parasites remain a major cause of disease and death in the world today, with children under five and pregnant women most at risk from malaria infection. The burden of Malaria falls on developing tropical and sub-countries throughout the world, with the health and prosperity of Australia's nearest neighbours and major trading partners still heavily affected by these mosquito borne parasites. The Wilson lab is developing new drug treatment approaches to cure malaria disease and characterising the protein targets of drugs and vaccines in order to develop better therapeutics to reduce the disease burden.
- My Research
- Grants and Funding
- Professional Activities
Half of the world’s population is at risk of infection with mosquito-borne malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium. These complex eukaryotic parasites that live inside human cells cause widespread sickness and death throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world including countries neighbouring Australia. The majority of the >400,000 malaria related deaths that occur each year are caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum in children under 5 years in Africa, Asia and South America.
Unfortunately, resistance has developed to our most effective anti-malarial drugs, resulting in poorer treatment outcomes for clinical cases of this deadly parasite. There is an urgent need to identify novel drugs to partner with current first-line treatments to fill this looming treatment gap. In addition, development of an effective vaccine would reduce the burden of disease and greatly facilitate efforts to eradicate malaria. Unfortunately, a highly effective vaccine to protect against malaria has not been developed to date and efforts to identify the best vaccine targets are ongoing.
My laboratory seeks to identify and characterise novel parasite proteins for their suitability as both drug and vaccine targets. We focus on invasion of the human red blood cell by the small invasive merozoite stage of the parasite lifecycle as a therapeutic target. By developing therapeutics (drugs and vaccines) that inhibit merozoite invasion of the red blood cell we can instantly disrupt the lifecycle of the parasite in the stage that causes all the symptoms of the disease. We apply a breakthrough P. falciparum merozoite purification method (PNAS, 2010) that is superior to alternatives for studying malaria parasite invasion biology, opening up new opportunities to study this previously intractable lifecycle stage (Figure 1).
Antimalarials that inhibit invasion
By applying state of the art methods, we aim to develop invasion inhibitory antimalarials as viable drugs in a climate of increasing resistance to frontline treatments. Using a highly reproducible flow cytometry approach (Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy, 2013; Figure 2 A & B), we have screened traditional antimalarial therapies, protease inhibitors, kinase inhibitors, a range of antibiotics and identified several compounds and there analogues that rapidly inhibit merozoite invasion (BMC Biology, 2015). To understand how drug-like compounds target the essential process of merozoite invasion, we apply mutation analysis of gene targets, phenotypic screens of related Apicomplexan parasites, modifications and screens of analogues, fluorescence microscopy localisation and proteomic identification of drug binding targets. Importantly, many of the invasion inhibitory compounds identified in our research also kill at other stages of the parasites complex lifecycle, increasing there utility as broad acting antimalarials. Development of these invasion inhibitory compounds and identification of the mechanisms by which they inhibit invasion is the subject of ongoing research in the laboratory.
Functional characterisation of poorly defined merozoite vaccine targets
The function of nearly 50% of the genes in P. falciparum parasites is poorly described or not known altogether. Malaria proteins involved in invasion are no exception with a large number of potential vaccine targets having no known function. We apply gene-editing techniques to examine the potential role of some of these proteins in invasion and parasite growth. Using fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, genetic manipulation and proteomic techniques, we are characterising the localisation, interactions and functions of merozoite antigens with no known function to test their suitability as therapeutic targets.
Postgraduate and undergraduate opportunities
Honours, summer-student, masters and PhD projects are available to explore the biology of the malaria parasite and to develop new therapies against this deadly infectious organism. We are a small, supportive, research team that is applying new technologies to discover new ways of ending the burden of malaria disease. If you would like to find out more about our current research opportunities and whether our research is right for you, please contact Dr. Danny Wilson (email@example.com).
Date Position Institution name 2017 - 2019 DVCR 3 Year Mid-career Beacon Fellowship University of Adelaide, Adelaide 2015 Laboratory Head University of Adelaide 2014 Burnet Institute Research Fellow (Honorary) Burnet Institute, Melbourne 2014 - 2015 Senior Research Fellow (with Prof. James Paton) University of Adelaide 2012 - 2015 Peter Doherty, Early Career Fellowship National Health and Medical Research Council, Canberra 2011 - 2013 Senior Research Fellow (with Prof. Alan Cowman) Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne 2009 - 2011 Research Officer (with Prof. James Beeson) Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne
Awards and Achievements
Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount 2018 Research Award NHMRC Project Grant (CIA)- (773,613) National Health and Medical Research Council Australia — 2018 Research Award Channel 7 Research Foundation Channel 7 Childrens Research Foundation Australia 75,000 2018 Research Award Universities Australia/DAAD Germany Joint Research Co-operation scheme Universities Australia/DAAD Australia 10,000 2017 Fellowship DVCR 3 Year Mid-career Beacon Fellowship University of Adelaide — — 2016 Research Award DVCR Research Infrastructure Scheme (CIA)- Advanced Confocal Microscope ($342,000) University of Adelaide Australia — 2016 Research Award DVCR Interdisciplinary Research Fund (CIA)- Imaris image analysis software ($48,211) University of Adelaide Australia — 2015 Research Award DVCR Interdisciplinary Research Fund (CID)- Metalloproteomics HPLC ($28,000) University of Adelaide Australia — 2014 Research Award NHMRC Project Grant (CIC)- ($607,484) Walter and Eliza Hall Institute Australia — 2012 Fellowship NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Fellowship National Health and Medical Research Institute — — 2004 Scholarship NHMRC Dora Lush PhD Scholarship National Health and Medical Research Centre Australia —
Date Institution name Country Title 2004 - 2009 University of Melbourne, Melbourne Australia PhD
2016 - University of Adelaide, DVCR, 3-Year Beacon Fellowship. CIA: Dr. Danny Wilson. ($340,000)
2016 - University of Adelaide, DVCR, Research Infrastructure Scheme. Advanced confocal microscope. CIA: Dr. Danny Wilson. ($342,000)
2016 - University of Adelaide, DVCR, Interdisciplinary Research Fund. Imaris microscopy analysis software. CIA: Dr. Danny Wilson. ($48,211)
2015 - University of Adelaide, DVCR, Interdisciplinary Research Fund. Metalloproteomics HPLC. CID: Dr. Danny Wilson. ($28,000)
2013 - NHMRC Project Grant: APP1057960. CIC Dr. Danny Wilson. ($607,484 3 years)
2011- NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Fellowship APP1035715. CIA Dr. Danny Wilson. ($290,032 4 years)
2004- NHMRC Dora Lush PhD Scholarship 2004-2008: APP305553. CIA: Dr. Danny Wilson. ($73,913)
- 3rd Year: Infection and Immunity A, 2 lectures, Semester 1.
- 2nd Year: Biomedical Science, 2 lectures, Semester 2.
- 2nd Year: BSc Advance Mentor, Semester 1.
- 1st Year: SGDE for human perspectives, Semester 2.
Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2019 Principal Supervisor Functional characterisation of a putative Plasmodium falciparum invasion ligand and its homologues Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Juan Miguel Balbin 2018 Principal Supervisor Characterisation of the Function and Vaccine Potential of Surface Exposed Antigens Required for Malaria Parasite Invasion of Human Host Cells Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Isabelle Grace Henshall 2017 Principal Supervisor Functional Analysis of conserved antigens involved in malaria invasion of the host cell. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Benjamin Scott Liffner 2016 Principal Supervisor Identification and characterisation of invasion inhibitory antimalarial Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Amy Lee Burns
Date Role Board name Institution name Country 2016 - 2019 Representative Australian Society for Parasitology, SA Representative — Australia
Date Role Committee Institution Country 2017 - ongoing Secretary Molecular Life Sciences Microscopy Committee University of Adelaide Australia 2016 - 2018 Representative Australian Society for Parasitology, Education Committee Australian Society for Parasitology Australia 2013 - 2013 Treasurer Malaria in Melbourne Organising Committee — Australia
Date Role Membership Country 2017 - ongoing Member Light Microscopy Australia Australia 2014 - ongoing Member Adelaide Protein Group Australia 2014 - ongoing Member Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Australia 2013 - ongoing Representative Australian Society for Parasitology Australia
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