Professor James McCarthy

Professor James McCarthy



Professor James McCarthy photographed outside WEHI




Laboratory Head

Lab focus: Malaria transmission

Our laboratory investigates the cellular mechanisms underpinning malaria parasite transmission and disease.

We investigate the novel banana-shaped sexual stages of Plasmodium falciparum, focused on understanding their unique biology and how this contributes to transmission. We are interested in developing and testing drugs and vaccines that may block transmission of the parasite from infected humans to Anopheles mosquitos.

Research interest

Our research is aimed at understanding the unique biology of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, with a particular focus on virulence and transmission.

We are investigating:

  • How parasites renovate their RBC home to drive virulence and transmission
  • How the parasite makes the banana-shaped sexual blood stage gametocyte
  • How this shape helps them survive in the host and be efficiently transmitted
  • How parasites behave inside the human host in vivo
  • How effective specific drugs and vaccines are at blocking transmission of gametocytes from infected humans to Anopheles mosquitos.

In these projects, we will use CRISPR gene editing to create transgenic malaria parasites, which we will study by combing proteomics, molecular and cellular biology techniques with super resolution microscopy to define the molecular players driving gametocyte development and transmission.

This in vitro work will be complimented by ex vivo examination of samples from experimental human malaria infection studies, which are focused on identifying and confirming the activity of candidate transmission blocking drugs and vaccines.

A combined in vitro and in vivo approach to understanding how gametocytes mature will inform the development of effective means of combating this debilitating disease.

Professor McCarthy holds a joint appointment as Director of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and Professor of Medicine at the Doherty Institute where he leads the Translational Models of Infectious Diseases group that focusses on human infection challenge models to develop drugs and vaccines.

Student project logo

Student research opportunity

Student project logo

Student research opportunity

Still photo from biomedical animation video

This WEHI.TV biomedical animation reconstructs the infection of a human child via mosquito bite, through invasion of cellular tissues including the liver and blood.

DNA graphic

Dr Marco Herold speaks to ABC TV’s Catalyst program about new ways to fight cancer with CRISPR and Cas9