Emergency -

University of South Florida

USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Doctoral Candidate Receives ASTMH Young Investigator Award

 

Each year, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) recognizes the work of outstanding young investigators through the presentation of the Young Investigator Award, a competition held at the Annual Meeting. This award encourages young scientists to pursue careers in various aspects of tropical disease research.

The selected applicants have completed the majority of the work that is reported in the accepted abstract and are invited to participate in a live presentation followed by a panel interview with leading experts in tropical medicine and global health. Cash prizes are awarded to winners, first-tier mentions and honorable mentions. The 69th ASTMH Annual Meeting was held virtually in the wake of the pandemic, with attendance from 4,500 people across 118 countries.

Jyotsna Chawla, MS, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Doctoral Candidate, receives The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s Young Investigator Award.

Jyotsna Chawla, MS, doctoral candidate in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) Department of Molecular Medicine, took part in the virtual competition and impressed the judges with her presentation on, “a high-throughput phenotypic screen unravels Plasmodium falciparum genes essential for malaria transmission.” Chawla works alongside John H. Adams, PhD, a distinguished university professor in the USF Health College of Public Health, and Andreas Seyfang, PhD, MSc, professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine. “The Society and Committee are very impressed with the quality of your research, your thoughtful approach to your work and the professionalism you displayed in presenting your research to the judges,” a letter from Edward Mitre, MD, chair of the ASTMH Young Investigator Awards, and Karen A. Goraleski, ASTMH chief executive officer, said.

Chawla is one of five ASTMH Young Investigator Award winners of 2020. “I am thrilled to have won this recognition for my work as I believe that targeting  the malaria parasite at a stage when it is being transmitted from humans to mosquitoes is indispensable to the accomplishment of our long-standing goal of malaria eradication,” Chawla said. “Malaria is a devastating global disease and a leading cause of death with the highest impact on low-to-middle income countries. As of yet, we lack a fully effective vaccine to protect one from this infectious disease and an increasing drug resistance of the parasite to the current frontline treatment is alarming. Hence, every effort directed towards identifying novel targets and developing therapeutics to effectively manage and eventually eliminate malaria is worth pursuing.”

Targeting transmission stages of the malaria parasite P. falciparum: A schematic overview highlights various points in the parasite’s life cycle where sexual development can be interrupted by transmission-blocking agents. (1) Key molecular players and epigenetic regulators of sexual commitment (2) Facilitators of extravasation, association with erythroblastic islands and intravasation of developing gametocytes in the bone marrow (3) Regulators and signal transducers of gametocyte deformation (4) Gametocyte surface antigens for new TBVs (5) Sex ratio dynamics and exflagellation of male gametocytes. The sketch was created using BioRender.com and used with the permission of Jyotsna Chawla.

 

Notable past Young Investigator Awardees include 1997’s Stefan Kappe, PhD, Dr. Adams’ very first doctoral student at USF, and 1999’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, chief medical advisor to the president and familiar face during the coronavirus pandemic, was also in attendance when he was presented with the Service to Public Health award for his outstanding service to the global public as a trusted voice in science.

Founded in 1903, ASTMH is the largest international scientific organization dedicated to reducing the worldwide burden of tropical infectious diseases and improving global health.

 

2020 Young Investigator Award recipients

 

  • Jyotsna Chawla, University of South Florida, United States
  • Mariah Hassert, Saint Louis University, United States
  • Gokul Raj Kathamuthun, National Institutes of Health, India
  • Edgar Manrique, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Peru
  • Kelsey Sumner, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States

First-tier Mention

  • Mikael Boberg, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Geervani Daggupati, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States
  • Kaitlin Driesse, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States
  • Megan Vogt, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, United States
  • Nicolas Wheeler, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States

Honorable Mention

  • Brien Haun, The University of Hawaii, United States
  • Tulika Singh, Duke University, United States
  • Li Jun Thean, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Australia