Molecular genetics and biochemistry of parasites

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Medical, Veterinary &Life Sci


The proposed research concerns important areas of biology of some of the most important groups of parasitic infectious agents. It is aimed at identifying processes in these organisms that are essential for the organisms to survive in their hosts. This in turn allows the identification of molecules that are essential to these parasites. Once identified, it is possible to use a variety of methods to identify small chemical compounds that interfere with the normal function of these essential parasite molecules. Such compounds can then be refined and evaluated for use as new drugs.
The proposed research also has potential benefits to other areas of human medicine in that the findings generated may help in the design of treatments against other human diseases such as cancer and HIV infections and also underpin the development of diagnostics and vaccines.
The research of the proposed group will be communicated to the general public in a variety of ways. We will make active use of the World Wide Web to publicise positive aspects of our research (publicising research into tropical medicine is subject to the usual concerns of publicising the use of animals in research). We will make use of the Universities? Publicity Services that produce publications aimed at local members of the public and business, and, where appropriate, issue press releases and contact the media.

Technical Summary

Parasites cause suffering and mortality throughout the world and are a major economic burden. Our Co-operative Group aims to identify genes/proteins of parasites involved in key biological processes, in order to develop a greater understanding of the cellular, genetic and biochemical processes of these organisms. This will allow the identification and validation of novel drug targets and detailed biochemical characterisation of these targets to determine differences between host and parasite that can underpin drug design and be exploited for novel therapies. Moreover, as resistance to current drugs is becoming an increasing problem we will determine the molecular basis of resistance to selected drugs. This information might be used to reverse resistance and to inform future drug design in a way that minimises the risk of development of resistance to novel agents. An important additional major outcome will be the use of certain protozoa and nematodes as model genetic systems for the investigation of biological questions of relevance to other human disease. We shall use genetic manipulation to investigate gene function and validate new drug targets, proteomics for studies on protein:protein interactions, and protein expression systems to provide native and recombinant protein for biochemical studies, X-ray crystallographic analyses and inhibitor discovery.


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Berg M (2010) Design and evaluation of Trypanosoma brucei metacaspase inhibitors. in Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters

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Besteiro S (2007) Protein turnover and differentiation in Leishmania. in International journal for parasitology

Description Gates Grant
Amount £1,700,000 (GBP)
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 01/2010 
End 12/2014
Description MRC Programme Grant
Amount £1,800,000 (GBP)
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2008 
End 03/2013