USF malaria research showcased on Capitol Hill

Six years ago USF had no researchers working on malaria.   Today, more than 60 faculty members, staff and students are tackling major challenges needed to end malaria, a preventable and treatable mosquito-borne disease that killed more than 650,000 people last year — overwhelmingly children in sub-Saharan Africa

That accomplishment didn’t escape the notice of the Malaria Policy Center in Washington, DC.   The center invited Dennis Kyle, PhD, professor of global health in the USF College of Public Health, to showcase USF’s malaria research at a Capitol Hill expo attended by legislators, Congressional staff, and members of the global health community on World Malaria Day (April 25).

Dr. Kyle was among 20 top malaria researchers from  U.S. companies, universities and research institutions brought together to highlight domestic innovation, economic development, and the scientific and technological progress achieved in the fight against malaria. Other presenters included representatives from Johns Hopkins University, the Harvard Malaria Initiative, Emory University, Draper Laboratory, Virginia Tech, and Fraunhofer USA Center for Molecular Biotechnology.

USF's Dennis Kyle speaking at Malaria Research Expo on Capitol Hill

Dr. Dennis Kyle

Dr. Kyle gave expo attendees gathered in the Russell Senate Office Building an overview of USF’s progress in malaria research.

The USF global infectious disease research team has successfully cultivated drug-resistant malaria parasites from Cambodia in the laboratory – a much needed in vitro model to help determine how the parasite builds up tolerance to artemisinin combination therapy, a mainstay malaria treatment, he said.

The USF team is also working with Draper Laboratory tissue engineering experts, creating advanced devices to accelerate discovery of new therapies for malaria and its prevention.

A recent USF collaboration with the Medicines for Malaria Venture has yielded a new series of compounds that offer promise in attacking malaria on several fronts — by blocking the dormant liver stages of parasite development, killing the blood stages, and also preventing transmission from human to the mosquito.  The disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

“The University of South Florida is active in many major research areas currently required to tackle the problem of eliminating malaria,” Dr. Kyle said. “We were able to build a world-class effort in malaria research through key investments in the university’s College of Public Health and state funding for both a Center of Excellence for Drug Discovery and Innovation and a World Class Scholars Program.”