Top accolade for early-career success

Top accolade for early-career success

Illuminate newsletter index page, December 2019
December 2019

Dr Wilson Wong in the Centre for Dynamic Imaging
Dr Wilson Wong and collaborators have visualised a key
molecular structure that could help to design a vaccine
against the deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum

Structural biologist Dr Wilson Wong is the Institute’s 2019 recipient of the Burnet Prize, our top honour for early-career scientists.

Dr Wong is recognised for his research to understand and treat malaria, with a focus on the world’s deadliest malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Key to malaria vaccine

Most recently, Dr Wong was part of an international collaboration with US and Danish researchers that visualised the unique molecular ‘key’ used by P. falciparum to enter human red blood cells.

Dr Wong said the team used cryo-EM (cryo-electron microscopy) technology to obtain hundreds of thousands of images of the proteins that come together to form the key.

“With high-powered computing we were then able to assemble these images, revealing the first-ever high resolution, 3D ‘blueprint’ of the protein complex that is critical to the parasite’s ability to cause infection," he said.

His other discoveries include making progress towards new antimalarial drugs, and revealing how an antibiotic blocks the molecular machinery required for malaria parasite survival.

No better job than this

Dr Wong said he felt honoured to receive the award and that he was inspired by his colleagues. “I cannot thank my mentors and the people who have supported me enough. They are amazing, not only because of their knowledge and skills, but also for their kindness. 

“For me, there is no better job than this. I love to learn how things work and I will continue to aspire to help advance the treatment of human disease.”

More information about Dr Wong's research:

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