About the lab

My laboratory studies malaria, a disease that is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year.

We aim to advance the understanding of how malaria-causing parasites invade human cells. Recently, new parasite strains emerged that are resistant to available drugs. Our goal is to develop new methods of killing the parasites or preventing them from infecting new cells. We hope that this will help us to develop new antimalarial treatments that will help to overcome the emerging drug-resistance problem.

Scientific figure
A cryo-EM structure of the Plasmodium falciparum of the CyRPA-Ripr-Rh5 complex essential for parasite invasion. Image by Dr Wilson Wong



The Cowman lab is focused on identifying the key pathways by which malaria parasites survive to cause disease in the human host. Decades of research by our group into the fundamental biology of parasites, anti-malarial drug action and drug resistance mechanisms present us with a remarkable nexus for attacking malaria disease.

By means of cross-collaborative techniques, we have identified the remarkably diverse methods of malaria parasite invasion of red blood cells, the pathways of dramatic host cell remodelling following parasite entry and have invented new clinically relevant drugs that arrest parasite escape from the infected cell.

Lab research projects

Lab team

We are an interdisciplinary team, combining expertise in cell biology, imaging, structural studies and biological chemistry. The Cowman Laboratory has made major steps in our understanding of malaria pathogenesis. There is a number of Plasmodium spp. but the causative agent of the most lethal form of malaria in humans is P. falciparum. This parasite has been able to develop resistance to most of the antimalarial drugs used to treat and control it and this has resulted in a crisis in the deployment of effective treatments against this disease.

Unravelling the many complicated mechanisms this organism employs to evade these antimalarial drugs and infect, survive and thrive within the human host has been one focus of my research.

We collaborate with multiple scientific institutions both within Australia and around the world and pharmaceutical companies such as Merck & Co., Inc.

We believe that together we can combat malaria.

13 members
PhD Student
Nicolai Jung
PhD Student
Ben Seager
Research Officer
Research Officer
Dr Tony Hodder
Senior Research Scientist
Senior Research Officer
Research Officer
Senior Research Officer
Tup Reaksudsan
Research Officer
Senior Research Officer
Catherine Hay
Research Assistant
Tony Triglia
Honorary Research Associate
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