Novel Method Of Immunization That Completely Eliminates Malaria Parasites

February 3, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Singapore scientists report that they have discovered a novel method of immunization that completely eliminates the malaria parasites in both stages of the parasite’s development.

The scientists, part of the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), attribute the novel method’s effectiveness in eliminating the malaria parasites to the fact that it targets common proteins that are found on the parasite in both stages of its sequential development, first, in the liver, and then in the blood.

The malaria research findings, which may serve as a basis for the development of a vaccine, were described in a “report card” about SIgN’s first year in its state-of-the-art research facility on the Biopolis biomedical sciences campus of Singapore’s Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

SIgN is a research consortium under A*STAR, which aims to make the program an international hub for immunology research.

“Building R&D is a strategic priority for Singapore,” said A*STAR Chairman Lim Chuan Poh. “Singapore remains committed to investing in R&D even in this time of global financial crisis.”

“The spotlight has increasingly turned on human immunology research over the last few years,” said Paola Castagnoli, Ph.D., SIgN’s Scientific Director. “There is increasing urgency to devise strategies and methods for translating what is already known in traditional immunology and develop it into something that can be used in the clinics and hospitals.

“SIgN will continue to ramp up its R&D efforts on human immunology as we believe that such an approach can potentially yield direct clinical applications with greater impact for human health,” added Castagnoli, who is also Professor of Immunology and Pathology at the University of Milan-Bicocca.

Castagnoli noted that these plans are consistent with the scientific strategy set by SIgN Chairman Philippe Kourilsky, Ph.D., when he initiated the research program. He also is Professor and Chair of Molecular Immunology at the College de France.

During its first year, SIgN has made significant headway in three major areas of human immunity: infection, immuno-regulation and inflammation.

In cancer inflammation, SIgN scientists are using a skin tumour model that can better mimic the course of disease progression in human cancers and thus is more clinically relevant than other models. SIgN scientists found that skin tumours are able to escape detection because of immuno-tolerance, and in their studies to determine how to reverse immuno-tolerance, they have been investigating how some white blood cells (CD 8+ T cells) could play a role in this phenomenon by contributing to disease progression and the body’s efforts to control the spread of the tumour.

A*STAR Chairman Lim Chuan Poh said, “Under the very able leadership of Professors Philippe Kourilsky and Paola Castagnoli, SIgN has indeed made significant progress.

They have attracted some very notable scientists and built extensive collaborations both within and outside Singapore. This is truly an anniversary to be celebrated.

“Our steady and sustained investments in R&D will not only differentiate us from the other R&D hubs, but make us very attractive as an R&D partner, and position us as the place to be for international scientific talent. Indeed, as we continue with our research activities, we are developing our capacity and positioning ourselves well for future growth once the global economy recovers.”


Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.


For more information:

Ms Joyce Pang

Corporate Communications

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN):

SIgN, officially inaugurated on 15 January 2008, is a research consortium under A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council aimed at building on the strengths of the existing immunology research groups at A*STAR, as well as expanding and strengthening the immunology research expertise in Singapore. SIgN’s objectives include coordinating basic, translational and clinical research needed to establish immunology as a core capability in Singapore; establishing productive links with local initiatives within Biopolis and across Singapore; obtaining international recognition while establishing relationships with leading institutions in the world; and building up a strong platform in basic human immunology research for better translation of results into medical applications.

In its first year, SIgN also has rapidly expanded its stable of research talent as well as actively engaged industrial and clinical partners to develop and drive innovation in the area of human immunology. To date, 85 scientists have been recruited to SIgN ” an increase of 42% since the program’s official inauguration. Among the recent recruits are two notable immunologists whose unique expertise strengthens SIgN’s human immunology knowledge base. They are:

  • Catharina Svanborg, M.D., Ph.D., a clinical immunologist and bacteriologist who came to SIgN from Lund University in Sweden where she was Professor of Clinical Immunology. She is furthering her research on HAMLET, a variant of a protein complex in human milk that has the ability to selectively kill tumour cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed.

  • Olaf Rotschzke, Ph.D., who came to SIgN from the Max-Delbrueck-Center in Berlin and who has more than 15 years of immunology research experience in studying a group of protective immune cells known as regulatory T cells (T-Regs), which are essential to the suppression of inflammation. Suppressing inflammation is important in treating autoimmune diseases, allergies and graft rejection. His research involves translating scientific results that have been successfully proven in animal models into therapies that can be used in human patients.

Over the past year, SIgN has built up a strong network for the exchange of ideas and expertise with over 40 research centres, hospitals and companies worldwide. It has also established several research collaborations with both local and international partners such as Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, Environmental Health Institute and Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases; France’s Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale; Humalys SAS; Italy’s University of Milano-Bicocca; and Thailand’s University of Mahidol.

SIgN is also actively collaborating with other A*STAR research units, leveraging on each other’s strengths and capabilities to advance scientific knowledge. Examples of such collaborations include a hepatic disease research programme with the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, joint grant call with the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium, setting up a transcriptional profiling database for immune cells with the Bioinformatics Institute and initiating projects on skin tissues with the Institute of Medical Biology.

Going forward, SIgN plans to collaborate with even more A*STAR research units such as the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC), to which SIgN would bring validated products or targets for further development by ETC to the stage at which they can attract funding by venture capital investors or be out-licensed to industry.

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR):

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, is Singapore’s lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based Singapore.

A*STAR actively nurtures public sector research and development in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering. We strongly support Singapore’s key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to our partners in industry and the healthcare sector. A*STAR oversees 22 research institutes, consortia and centres, and supports extramural research with the universities, hospital research centres and other local and international partners. At the heart of this knowledge intensive work is human capital. Top local and international scientific talent drive knowledge creation at A*STAR’s research institutes. The agency also sends scholars for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training in the best universities, a reflection of the high priority A*STAR places on nurturing the next generation of scientific talent.

Source: Cathy Yarbrough

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore



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