Professor Alan Cowman

Professor Alan Cowman



Alan Cowman standing in a laboratory



AC BSc (Hons) Griffith PhD Melbourne

Laboratory Head; Deputy Director, Science Strategy

Lab focus: Understanding malaria parasite biology

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. 

Research interest

Our research is aimed at understanding how Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the most severe form of malaria, infects humans and causes disease. 

We focus on three major aspects of malaria:

  • Understanding how the parasite invades human red blood cells. This will help us to develop a vaccine that prevents the parasite from infecting red blood cells. 
  • Studying how the parasite survives inside the red blood cell. This will help us to develop new treatments which will kill the parasite once it is present inside the human body.
  • Combining our expertise in structural biology and chemistry, we develop novel antimalarial drugs in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies.

We are an interdisciplinary team, combining expertise in cell biology, imaging, structural studies and biological chemistry. We look for novel approaches and unconventional thinking to combat malaria.

Cryo-EM structure of the Plasmodium falciparum

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

Female scientist with research mosquitoes

Researchers have developed a novel class of antimalarial compounds that can effectively kill malaria parasites.

Professor Alan Cowman sitting outside

Institute Deputy Director, Science Strategy, Professor Alan Cowman AC has been appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia for his contributions to medical research and scientific education.