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.


Selected publications from Prof Alan Cowman

Favuzza P, de Lera Ruiz M, Thompson JK, Triglia T, Ngo A, Steel RWJ, Vavrek M, Christensen J, Healer J, Boyce C, Guo Z, Hu M, Khan T, Murgolo N, Zhao L, Penington JS, Reaksudsan K, Jarman K, Dietrich MH, Richardson L, Guo KY, Lopaticki S, Tham WH, Rottmann M, Papenfuss T, Robbins JA, Boddey JA, Sleebs BE, Sabroux HJ, McCauley JA, Olsen DB, Cowman AF. Dual Plasmepsin-Targeting Antimalarial Agents Disrupt Multiple Stages of the Malaria Parasite Life Cycle. Cell Host Microbe. 2020 Feb 27. 27(4):642-658. (Citations 72; FWCI 4.75).

Wong W, Huang R, Menant S, Hong C, Sandow JJ, Birkinshaw RW, Healer J, Hodder AN, Kanjee U, Tonkin CJ, Heckmann D, Soroka V, Søgaard TMM, Jørgensen T, Duraisingh MT, Czabotar PE, de Jongh WA, Tham WH, Webb AI, Yu Z, Cowman AF. Structure of Plasmodium falciparum Rh5-CyRPA-Ripr invasion complex. Nature 2019 Jan;565(7737):118-121 (Citations 68; FWCI 3.49).

Regev-Rudzki N, Wilson DW, Carvalho TG, Sisquella X, Coleman BM, Rug M, Bursac D, Angrisano F, Gee M, Hill AF, Baum J, COWMAN AF. (2013). Cell-Cell Communication between Malaria-Infected Red Blood Cells via Exosome-like Vesicles. Cell. 153(5):1120-33 (Citations 530; FWCI 10.72).

Boddey JA, Hodder AN, Günther S, Gilson PR, Patsiouras H, Kapp EA, Pearce JA, de Koning-Ward TF, Simpson RJ, Crabb BS, COWMAN AF. (2010). An aspartyl protease directs malaria effector proteins to the host cell. Nature. 463:627-31 (Citations 352; FWCI 3.34).

Maier AG, Rug M, O’Neill MT, Brown M, Chakravorty S, Szestak T, Chesson J, Wu Y, Hughes K, Coppel RL, Newbold C, Beeson JG, Craig A, Crabb BS, COWMAN AF. (2008). Exported proteins required for virulence and rigidity of Plasmodium falciparum-infected human erythrocytes. Cell. 134(1):48-61 (Citations 554; FWCI 6.59).

Voss TS, Healer J, Marty AJ, Duffy MF, Thompson JK, Beeson JG, Reeder JC, Crabb BS, and COWMAN AF. (2006) A var gene promoter controls allelic exclusion of virulence genes in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Nature 439:1004-1008 (Citations 323; FWCI 3.26).

Marti M, Good RT, Rug M, Knuepfer E, and COWMAN AF. (2004) Targeting malaria virulence and remodelling proteins to the host erythrocyte. Science 306:1930-1933 (Citations 1039; FWCI 5.54).

Reed MB, Saliba KJ, Caruana SR, Kirk K, and COWMAN AF. (2000) Pgh1 modulates sensitivity and resistance to multiple antimalarials in Plasmodium falciparum. Nature 403:906-909 (Citations 1,076; FWCI 6.22).

Crabb BS, Cooke BM, Reeder JC, Waller RF, Caruana SR, Davern KM, Wickham ME, Brown GV, Coppel RL, and COWMAN AF. (1997) Targeted gene disruption shows that knobs enable malaria-infected cells to cytoadhere under physiological shear stresses. Cell 89:287-296 (Citations 554; FWCI 6.73).

Foote SJ, Kyle DE, Martin RK, Oduola AMJ, Forsyth KP, Kemp DJ, and COWMAN AF. (1990) Several alleles of the multidrug-resistance gene are closely linked to chloroquine resistance in Plasmodium falciparum. Nature 345:255-258 (Citations 738; FWCI not available)

Lab research projects

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