Our People

Qin Cheng

Dr | Honorary Group Leader

Australian Defence Force Malaria & Infectious Disease Institute Laboratory

+ 61 7 3903 6387




Dr Qin Cheng studied medicine, then completed Masters and a PhD in 1993.  She conducted biomedical research on malaria parasites and vaccines at QIMR Berghofer prior to 1998. Since 1998 Dr Cheng has been Head of the Drug Resistance and Diagnostics Department at the Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute (formerly Australian Army Malaria Institute, AMI). She has been a Visiting Scientist at QIMR Berghofer since 1998 and was Adjunct Head of Malaria Drug Resistance and Chemotherapy Laboratory at QIMR between 2000 and 2010. In 2016 she was appointed as Honorary Group Leader, Head of the Army Malaria Institute Laboratory at QIMR Berghofer. Dr Cheng had an adjunct appointment as Associate Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Queensland between 2004 and 2015.

Dr Cheng’s research focuses on investigating biological and molecular changes that enable malaria parasites to escape diagnostic detection or anti-malarial drug treatment. Her laboratory identified mutant parasites that cause malaria rapid diagnostic test failure, and investigated mechanisms and evolution of drug resistance in malaria parasites. Over the years, her lab has made significant contributions to elucidating mechanisms of chloroquine, atovaqone, pyrimethamine and sulfadoxine resistance in malaria parasites. In recent years, the laboratory investigated artemisinin-induced dormancy and artemisnin treatment failure. The laboratory has also conducted operational orientated research including molecular epidemiology and surveillance of malaria in collaborations with country Ministries of Health and the WHO.



2016-present: Honorary Group Leader, QIMR Berghofer

1998-present: Head, Drug Resistance and Diagnostics Department, Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute



2013-2016: Visiting Scientist, Clinical Tropical Medicine, QIMR Berghofer

2010-2012: Visiting Scientist, Deputy Head, Malaria Drug Resistance and Chemotherapy laboratory, QIMR Berghofer

2004-2010: Visiting Scientist, Head, Malaria Drug Resistance and Chemotherapy laboratory, QIMR

2004-2015: Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Queensland

2002-2004: Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Queensland

1993-1998: Research Officer and Senior Research Officer, Malaria and Arbovirus Unit, QIMR 









Dr Cheng’s research focuses on investigating the biological and molecular changes in malaria parasites that makes them difficult to detect and/or resistant to anti-malarial drugs, and the epidemiological surveillance of these parasites. In collaborations with country Ministries of Health and the WHO, Dr Cheng’s lab currently investigates the emergence, evolution and epidemiology of mutant malaria parasites causing malaria rapid diagnostic test failures.  Her lab also investigates artemisinin-induced dormant parasites in vitro and in humans and how they cause treatment failures.  The lab is also interested in human CYP2D6 profile and how this relates to anti-relapse treatment failures. Her laboratory conducts molecular investigations into epidemiology of malaria and malaria drug resistance. Outcomes of these investigations inform malaria diagnosis and treatment policies for improving public health and Defence Force health protection.



  • Korsinczky M, Chen N, Kotecka B, Saul A, Rieckmann K, Cheng Q. Mutations in Plasmodium falciparum cytochrome b that are associated with atovaquone resistance are located at a putative drug-binding site. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 44:2100-2108.

Discovery: molecular mechanism and marker of atovaquone resistance in P. falciparum

  • Peters J, Fowler E, Gatton M, Chen N, Saul A, Cheng Q. 2002. High diversity and rapid changeover of expressed var genes during the acute phase of Plasmodium falciparum infections in human volunteers. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 99:10689-10694.

Demonstration: mechanism of antigenic variation facilitating the establishment of parasite infection and immune evasion.

  • Korsinczky M, Fischer K, Chen N, Baker J, Rieckmann K, Cheng Q. 2004. Sulfadoxine resistance in Plasmodium vivax is associated with a specific amino acid in dihydropteroate synthase at the putative sulfadoxine-binding site. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 48:2214-2222.

Discovery: molecular mechanism and marker of innate and acquired sulfadoxine resistance in P. vivax.  

  • Chen N, Auliff A, Rieckmann K, Gatton M, Cheng Q. 2007. Relapses of Plasmodium vivax infection result from clonal hypnozoites activated at predetermined intervals. J Infect Dis 195:934-941.

Demonstration: P. vivax relapses result from clonal activation of hypnozoites in infected patient liver at predetermined intervals.

  • Carlton JM, Adams JH, Silva JC, Bidwell SL, Lorenzi H, Caler E, Crabtree J, Angiuoli SV, Merino EF, Amedeo P, Cheng Q, Coulson RM, Crabb BS, del Portillo HA, Essien K, Feldblyum TV, Fernandez-Becerra C, Gilson PR, Gueye AH, Guo X, Kang’a S, Kooij TW, Korsinczky M, Meyer EV, Nene V, Paulsen I, White O, Ralph SA, Ren Q, Sargeant TJ, Salzberg SL, Stoeckert CJ, Sullivan SA, Yamamoto MM, Hoffman SL, Wortman JR, Gardner MJ, Galinski MR, Barnwell JW, Fraser-Liggett CM. 2008. Comparative genomics of the neglected human malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax. Nature 455:757-763.

Identification: the first P. vivax genome shedding light on its distinctive biology, facilitating the development of new drugs and vaccines.   

  • Teuscher F, Gatton ML, Chen N, Peters J, Kyle DE, Cheng Q. Artemisinin-induced dormancy in Plasmodium falciparum: duration, recovery rates, and implications in treatment failure. J Infect Dis 202:1362-8.

Identification: a small proportion of dormant parasites persists in vitro for many days after artemisinin treatment causing recrudescence of infection.

  • Gamboa D, Ho MF, Bendezu J, Torres K, Chiodini PL, Barnwell JW, Incardona S, Perkins M, Bell D, McCarthy J, Cheng Q. 2010. A large proportion of P. falciparum isolates in the Amazon region of Peru lack pfhrp2 and pfhrp3: implications for malaria rapid diagnostic tests. PLoS One 5:e8091.

Identification: mutant P. falciparum field isolates lacking targets of malaria rapid diagnostic tests, causing false negative RDT results. 

  • Cheng Q, Gatton ML, Barnwell J, Chiodini P, McCarthy J, Bell D, Cunningham J. 2014. Plasmodium falciparum parasites lacking histidine-rich protein 2 and 3: a review and recommendations for accurate reporting. Malar J 13:283.

Guidelines: for surveillance of mutant P. falciparum parasites causing malaria rapid diagnostic test failures. 

  • Berhane A, Anderson K, Mihreteab S, Gresty K, Rogier E, Mohamed S, Hagos F, Embaye G, Chinorumba A, Zehaie A, Dowd S, Waters NC, Gatton ML, Udhayakumar V, Cheng Q, Cunningham J. 2018. Major Threat to Malaria Control Programs by Plasmodium falciparum Lacking Histidine-Rich Protein 2, Eritrea. Emerg Infect Dis 24:462-470.

Identification: a high prevalence of mutant P. falciparum parasites causing a high rate of false negative rapid diagnostic test results in an African country. 

  • Peatey C, Chen N, Gresty K, Anderson K, Pickering P, Watts R, Gatton LM, McCarthy J and Cheng Q. 2020. Dormant Plasmodium falciparum parasites in human infections following artesunate therapy. J Infect Dis (in press).

Identification: Dormant parasites in human infections following artesunate treatment – likely causes of recrudescence.



2017-current:  WHO malaria HRP2 Deletion Detection Laboratory Network

2011-2016:  The Pacific Malaria Drug Resistance Monitoring Network

2010-2018:  Asia Pacific Malaria elimination Network vivax Working Group

2010-2016:  OzEmalaR, Austalia/Europe Malaria Research Collaborative network

2008: member of the Organising Committee, MAM 2008

2006-2018:  WHO/FIND Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) Evaluation Program Steering Committee member

2005: Member of the Organising Committee, “Vivax Malaria Research: 2005 and beyond”

2003-2010: ARC/NHMRC Research Network for Parasitology

1997-2002: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene



1996: The AMRAD Pharmacia Biotech Boreham Achievement Award

2007: Suncorp Queenslander of the Year Finalist



1993: PhD, Tropical Health, University of Queensland

1985: Master of Medicine, Peking Union Medical University and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences

1983: Bachelor of Medicine, Beijing Medical College (now Beijing University)