Prof Chris Newbold has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award.
Chris says – “The expression of some multigene families is key to malaria virulence. The prime example is the var gene family of Plasmodium falciparum whose protein products are expressed on the surface of infected red cells (iRBC), undergo mutually exclusive expression and evade host immunity by transcriptional switches. They also mediate binding to host cell receptors, a crucial virulence determinant and are known to highly polymorphic. In contrast, the Plasmodium interspersed repeat (pir) gene family is the only multi-gene family present in all Plasmodiumgenomes so far sequenced, has no definitive function assigned but has recently been strongly associated with virulence in a rodent model. We have recently developed novel algorithms that enable very accurately to assemble full length var and pir gene repertoires from Illumina reads from 1000s of field isolates. We are thus in a unique position to analyse these gene families in terms of evolution, function, pathogenesis and role in immunity and that is the basis of this grant.”