International partnership strengthens malaria research

International collaboration in the fight against Malaria is set for a welcome boost thanks to a new agreement between Australia’s Research Network for Parasitology and the EU’s Network of
Excellence on the Biology and Pathology of Malaria (BioMalPar).

Under the new Memorandum of Understanding, the two networks will join forces to form the largest ever global network of acclaimed scientists to set the scientific basis for prevention and new
treatment of the vector-borne infectious disease, Malaria.

According to Professor Nick Smith, Convenor of the Network and chief investigator at Sydney’s UTS Institute for the Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases, the alliance will promote collaboration
between individual scientists and research groups. ‘It will also result in improved coordination of relevant research programmes undertaken by the European Union and the Australian Governments
in an effort to defeat malaria,’ he said.

‘In addition, we will be bringing our scientists into close contact and collaboration with malaria scientists from more than 10 countries in the EU – which will make a very powerful nexus of
malaria researchers,’ the professor added.

Malaria is a parasitic disease causing a major public health problem in more than 90 countries inhabited by some 2,400 million people (or 40% of the world’s population). It is estimated to
cause up to 500 million clinical cases and over one million deaths each year, most of them among infants, children under five years old and pregnant women.

In Africa alone, malaria is the leading cause of death among young children, killing a child every 30 seconds. Today, Malaria is also spreading to new areas, such as Central Asia and Eastern
Europe, and more people are now dying from the disease than 30 years ago. Among the factors contributing to the rise in mortality is the spread of drug resistant parasites and insecticide
resistant mosquitoes.

Recent successes in characterising genomes of Plasmodium sp. malaria parasites, the vector mosquito and the human host are now providing researchers with an opportunity to develop novel
strategies to control malaria. However, the size and complexity of this task requires a concerted global effort that no single research organisation can carry out alone.

The five-year BioMalPar Network of Excellence (NoE), supported by the European Commission as part of its ‘Life Sciences for Health’ theme of the Sixth Framework programme (FP6), and Australia’s
Research Network for Parasitology, have decided to align their research efforts.

BioMalPar’s mission is to integrate the many fragmented European capacities and expertise in the Malaria field into a single coherent Network of Excellence, to work on the molecular and
cellular biology of Malaria. The NoE includes 19 research Institutes and universities from eight European countries as well as five African partners (Mali, Sudan, Uganda, Cameroon, and Nigeria)
and one Indian partner, all from malaria-endemic regions. Future networking at this scale will include prominent Australian malaria research groups.

One the objectives of the BioMalPar Network of Excellence is to decipher the basic mechanisms of pathogenesis and crucial parasite specific pathways. Since molecular research opens up novel
avenues in the analysis of hosts and vector, the network aims to induce the emergence of novel technologies and molecules that are novel targets for intervention strategies. This scientific
focus of the BioMalPar network is perfectly matched by the research orientation of the Australian Parasitology Network, which joins this cooperation with its ‘Molecular Approaches to Malaria’
section, thus allowing for powerful joint efforts addressing the most pressing topical questions in malaria research.

Under the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding, Europeans and Australians will strengthen their cooperation through a number of concrete actions, including joint research projects,
coordination of meetings, exchanges of students and senior scientists and joint technology platforms. This should give an extra push to boost global cooperation on fundamental questions of
malaria research. Hopefully other global players will join this concerted effort at a later stage.

For further information, please visit:

BioMalPar
http://www.biomalpar.org/

ARC/NHMRC Research Network for Parasitology
https://www.parasite.org.au/arcnet/

WHO – Malaria
https://www.who.int/topics/malaria/en/

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