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Future Fellowship for QIMR researcher

A malaria expert from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research has been awarded a $700,000 Australian Government Future Fellowships grant to work towards a vaccine for one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Dr Michelle Wykes will use her $706,948 four-year grant to investigate the body’s immune response to malaria infection.

“Doctors are concerned that the malaria parasite is becoming increasingly resistant to current drugs,” Dr Wykes said.

“I’m looking into how the malaria parasite evades immunity.”

“My work is into the dendritic cells, which I describe as the Generals of the Immune Army. They’re the cells that control our immune system. When a person gets malaria, the parasite captures those “generals”. We want to understand how we can take control back from the parasite.”

There’s currently no vaccine against malaria and current drug therapies can be highly toxic, difficult to administer, and too expensive, especially in the developing world.

Malaria is responsible for up to one million deaths in Pacific, Asian and African nations every year. Australia reports up to 600 cases each year.

Dr Wykes’ research will provide a new understanding of how our immune system works against malaria, and play a role in the development of a vaccine, or new treatments.

The Federal Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, today announced 209 Future Fellowships totalling $151 million to provide research opportunities to some of the world’s best mid-career researchers.

“All 209 researchers will use their fellowships to solve problems and make discoveries that may improve the lives of all Australians,” Senator Evans said.

The Future Fellowships scheme began in 2009, to increase the opportunities for highly qualified mid-career researchers to work in Australia, rather than overseas.

QIMR’s Infectious Diseases program is tackling malaria from a range of different angles, and is running clinical trials in Brisbane to test potential drugs and vaccines.