Molecular Parasitology

Professor Don McManus
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Don McManus

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Professor Don McManus

Head, Molecular Parasitology Laboratory

Educational background

  • BSc (Hons) University of Wales
  • PhD University of Wales
  • DSc University of Wales

Work history

Current appointments

  • 2001–current Head of Molecular Parasitology Laboratory
  • 2011–current NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, QIMR Berghofer
  • 2011–current Senior Principal Research Fellow and Senior Scientist, QIMR Berghofer
  • Professor of Tropical Health, The University of Queensland
  • Professor, Griffith University

Previous appointments

  • 1993–2001 Head of Molecular Parasitology Unit, QIMR Berghofer
  • 1992–93 Head of Unit of Parasitic and Infectious Diseases, QIMR Berghofer
  • 1991–92 Head of Division of Tropical Health and Infectious Diseases, QIMR Berghofer
  • 1989–2002 Director, Tropical Health Program, QIMR Berghofer
  • 1978–88 Lecturer, Department of Zoology/Biology, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of London

Current areas of research

I lead a highly successful team established over 25 years with a unique approach to the control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The NHMRC (program/project grants) and international agencies (e.g. Wellcome Trust, NIH, Dana/UBS Optimus Foundations) have funded my leading edge research over this time. Fundamental to my research ethos is my ability to draw together an extensive network of linkages critical to the quality and substance of the work undertaken by our international team that is recognised by major scientific research institutions in China, SE Asia and globally. Including mutual research training of national/international scholars and technology transfer, my research model has informed policy and practice for collaborations between Australia and the region, providing significant and ongoing benefit to health and medical research in Australia.

My vision for research will continue to marry basic and applied research, translating into innovative, workable and practical control strategies. This underpins my firm commitment to field and laboratory research with my multi-skilled team, which brings together research leaders with expertise in: molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics, immunology, human genetics, vaccinology, modelling techniques, field epidemiology and biostatistics, the design of major intervention trials, and in coordinating and monitoring NTD parasite control programs. It is vital that against a global background of economic and environmental change that an appropriate strategic vision of the critical research needed to diminish the impact of the NTDs continues to be developed and delivered. In combination with effective surveillance and monitoring, we now have the diagnostic tools and public health interventions available to eliminate schistosomiasis and other NTDs from Asia. This is one of my key scientific goals, which will result in substantial kudos and benefit to health and medical research in this country as well as regionally.

My research goal is the global elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), notably schistosomiasis, a worm infection afflicting millions of the world’s poorest people. I have decades of transformative-research experience and my multi-disciplinary team has developed novel techniques and tools, including vaccines and diagnostics, to eliminate a centuries-old disease responsible for major human suffering.

Research highlights

Recent achievements/ unique contributions of my research on NTDs in the past 5 years

  • Elucidated the diagnostic value of non-invasive biomarkers for stage-specific diagnosis of hepatic fibrosis in patients with advanced schistosomiasis japonica.
  • Showed a critical role for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors and resident liver cells in the pathogenesis of schistosomiasis and demonstrated that S.japonicum eggs induce a proinflammatory, anti-fibrogenic phenotype in hepatic stellate cells.
  • Confirmed the potential of the insulin receptor as a transmission blocking veterinary vaccine for zoonotic S. japonicum, targeting water buffaloes/other bovines, and identified signaling pathways in schistosomes as novel targets for control interventions against schistosomiasis.
  • Published the outcomes of a five-year longitudinal studies of schistosomiasis transmission in Sichuan Province, China and the downstream impact following closure of the Three Gorges Dam, and baseline results of a multi-component trial, including vaccination of bovines, for the elimination of schistosomiasis.
  • Used molecular/copro-parasitological diagnosis to show a high prevalence of S. japonicum infection in carabao (buffaloes) and humans in the Philippines with important implications for transmission and control.
  • Published major articles on the diagnosis, treatment and management of schistosomiasis, neuroschistosomiasis and echinococcosis, on DNA diagnosis and serine protease/Kunitz inhibitors in parasitic helminths, on the immunogenetics of human echinococcosis and the status of the genetics and molecular taxonomy of Echinococcus species.
  • Continued major field and epidemiological studies in Ningxia, a hyper-endemic province for echinococcosis, determined the impact of anthropogenic and natural environmental changes on Echinococcus transmission in China and developed new LAMP diagnostic assays for the surveillance of AE/CE in canine hosts.
  • Surveyed the spectrum of gastrointestinal pathogens, including schistosomes, in returning travellers in a major solicited article published in the New Engl J Med.
  • Published the genomic sequence for E. granulosus in Nature Genet. The work is a major contribution to genomic and molecular Parasitology, likely to have major impact in design of novel control measures.
  • Pursued genomics and post-genomics research on new S. japonicum and E. granulosus molecules we discovered including secreted enzymes/surface molecules, particularly tetraspanins, receptors and Kunitz protease inhibitors all of which are candidate drug, vaccine and diagnostic targets.28-30
  • Having developing a customised microarray with over 20,000 features that contains the majority of the schistosome transcriptome, we used this to investigate differential variation in metabolism, ion regulation, and tegumental function during the S. japonicum lifecycle and to investigate.
  • In total, we published over 80 papers on our population-health work on NTDs in Asia; a number are transformational, shaping policy and practice leading to improved treatment and control of these diseases. This work has wide-scale application for informing government organisations on control options in other NTD-endemic communities, including Africa.

Professional memberships

  • Member, British Society for Parasitology
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Member
  • American Society of Parasitology Member, British Society of Immunology Member
  • British Society for Parasitology Member
  • Association de Parasitologos Espanoles (Spain) Member
  • Australian Society of Parasitology
  • Fellow of the International Association of Hydatidology (Asocicion Internacional de Hidatidologia) Member
  • Public Health Association of Australia Member
  • American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Elected member
  • World Federation of Parasitologists First Vice President
  • World Federation of Parasitologists Fellow of the Society of Biology (FSB) (UK)


  • Member NHMRC 2015 Career Development Fellowships Peer Review Panel
  • Member of the Peer review panel of the Infection Genomics Programme for the quinquennial review of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  • 2014 Ralph Doherty QIMR Berghofer Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Medical Research
  • 2015 QIMR Berghofer’s nominee for Research Australia Awards – Peter Wills Award
  • 2015 QIMR Berghofer’s nominee for NHMRC Outstanding Contribution Award
  • 2014 Member NHMRC 2014 Career Development Fellowships Peer Review Panel
  • 2014 QIMR Berghofer’s nominee for The Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research
  • 2014 Selected Finalist for The Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research
  • 2014 Invitation to co-edit the Research Topic: The Schistosomiasis Vaccine- It Is Time to Stand Up, for Frontiers in Immunology, section Immunotherapies and Vaccines
  • 2013 –17 Appointed to World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Advisory Panel on Parasitic Diseases – Schistosomiasis
  • 2013 Member, International Scientific Advisory Committee for XIII International Congress of Parasitology (ICOPA XIII) held at Centro Banamex, Mexico City, 10-15 August, 2014
  • 2013 - Elected as a Fellow of the Society of Biology (FSB) (UK)
  • 2012 Member, Scientific Committee of The First Forum on Surveillance Response System Leading to Tropical Disease Elimination, Shanghai, China, 16-18th June, 2012
  • 2012 Conferred with honorary membership of the American Society of Parasitologists in recognition of many significant contributions to parasitology during a distinguished career
  • 2012 Promoted to Senior Scientist, QIMR Berghofer
  • 2012 Membership of NHMRC Research Translation Faculty
  • 2011 Member Scientific Advisory Committee, Australian Centre for Vaccine Development.
  • 2010 Conferred as Honorary International Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, at the ASTMH 59th Annual Meeting Nov 3-7 Atlanta, Georgia, USA in recognition of outstanding accomplishment by an “individual not an American citizen who has made eminent contributions to some phase of tropical medicine and hygiene”
  • 2010 Awarded Senior Principal Research Fellowship by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (2011-2015)
  • 2010 Member Expert Scientific Committee of the 24th International Congress of Hydatidology, Urumqi, Xinjiang, China, 14-18 September, 2011
  • 2009 Continuing Member of WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Parasitic Diseases
  • 2009 Member of the Scientific Committee of the Joint International Tropical Medicine Meeting, 2-4th December, 2009, Bangkok, Thailand
  • 2009 Member of the Disease Reference Group on Zoonoses and Marginalized  Infectious Diseases of Poverty, UNICEF/UNDP/World bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR)
  • 2009 Member of PhD Thesis Evaluation Group, Department of Parasitology, University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan
  • 2009 Elected as Board Member, Regional Network for Asian Schistosomiasis and Other Helminth Zoonoses (RNAS+)
  • 2009 Awarded Cerificate of Merit of the International Association of Hydatidology
  • 2009 Core member of the Schistosoma japonicum Genome Sequencing and Functional Analysis Consortium which published the complete genomic sequence of S. japonicum this year in a land mark paper in Nature, 460: 345-352
  • 2007 Chief Investigator on successful NHMRC Program Grant
  • 2005 Professor, Griffith University
  • 2005 External assessor, Universiti Malaya
  • 2004 Member International Scientific Committee, XX1st International Congress of Hydatidology, Nairobi, Kenya, August 16-21st, 2004
  • 2004 Receipt of a five year Programme Grant under the NHMRC/Wellcome Trust (UK) International Collaborative Research Grant Scheme
  • 2004 Receipt of grant from Sandler Center for Basic Research in Parasitic Diseases (US) to design, construct and utilize a S. japonicum microarray
  • 2004 Major review article published in the Lancet on Echinococcosis
  • 2004 Collaborative paper published in Nature Genetics on the transcriptome of S. japonicum
  • 2004 Landmark paper describing a novel diagnostic  test for echinococcosis – published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases
  • 2004 Full application solicited from the Foundation for the NIH for developing an anti-schistosome transmission blocking vaccine under the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative
  • 2003 Elected Local Secretary (for Queensland), Royal Society Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • 2003 Successful applicant for a Wellcome Trust/NHMRC International Collaborative Research Grant – AUD $2.5million
  • 2003 Appointed Visiting Professor and Senior Research Advisor to Ningxia Medical College, Yueyang, Ningxia, PR China
  • 2002 Co-Editor and contributor on “Echinococcus” for Special Issue of Parasitology
  • 2002 Elected to Membership of the Asia-Pacific International Molecular Biology Network
  • 2001 Invited Guest Editor on “Schistosomiasis in the 21st Century” for Acta Tropica
  • 2000 Appointed Guest Professor of Xinjiang Medical University, Urumqi, Xinjiang, PR China
  • 2000 Appointed Special Expert to the Echinococcus Research Centre, Xinjiang Hospital, Urumqi, Xinjiang, PR China
  • 2000 Appointed member of WHO Steering Committee on Schistosomiasis
  • 1998 Elected Vice-President of the World Federation of Parasitologists
  • 1996 Awarded Doctorate of Science, University of Wales
  • 1994 Invited to join the committee assessing applications for the TDR/WHO Schistosome Genome Network
  • 1994 Honorary Visiting Fellow, Zoology Department, James Cook University, Townsville
  • 1994 Promoted to SPRF and full Professor
  • 1994 Elected to the Board of the World Federation of Parasitologists
  • 1992 Invited Guest Editor on “Molecular variation in parasites” for Acta Tropica
  • 1991 Made an honorary member of the World Association of Hydatidology
  • 1991 Honorary Research Advisor, Department of Parasitology, University of Queensland
  • 1990 Appointed Scientific Research Adviser to Xinjiang Medical College, China
  • 1989 Appointed Scientific Adviser to the National Hydatid Disease Centre of China
  • 1989 Invited to join the WHO Working Group on Echinococcus
  • 1987 Acted as EEC coordinator for hydatid disease research and epidemiology in the UK and my laboratory was officially recognised as an EEC DNA Reference Centre
  • 1986 Keynote speaker at the World Congress of Parasitology, Brisbane 1986, “Biochemistry of Helminths”
  • 1985 Awarded the prize for the best communication presented at the XII World Hydatid Congress, Madrid, Spain for the paper entitled “The molecular biology of Echinococcus: a new approach to hydatid disease and parasite development”
  • 1982 Visiting Professor Yarmouk University, Jordan
  • 1979 Visiting Professor to Ahwaz University, Iran