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Our Approach

Our primary commitment is to aid in the eradication of malaria worldwide. Our approach is multifaceted – we partner small molecule therapeutics with the development of simple inexpensive diagnostic tools and other advances to reduce and eventually eliminate the rate of transmission of malaria. We are targeting the force-producing cytoskeletal systems of the parasites, essential for parasite function. Our platform will be effective for treatment of other parasitic diseases as well.

Parasitic infections cause devastating health and economic consequences world-wide and remain one of the most significant public health challenges globally. They include vector borne diseases like malaria as well as diseases caused by direct infection by protozoans and multicellular parasites. Until recently many parasitic diseases were considered to be confined to non-western nations. However, worldwide travel and on-going alterations in climatic conditions have made boundaries more porous, and diseases once restricted to specific areas are becoming global.

Existing efforts to develop therapeutic agents for treatment of malaria and other parasitic diseases often start with phenotypic screening for small molecule inhibitors of parasite invasion into their host cells. While an important approach, the likelihood of success in drug development correlates well with the understanding of the mechanism of action of the target. Our approach is to develop small molecule therapeutics against target proteins that we have studied for more than four decades and meet six essential characteristics (see figure). We are also leveraging our knowledge base of the cytoskeleton to develop diagnostic tools for malaria.


 “Life’s Ratchet”

Parasite division, morphogenesis, and host invasion are force-dependent processes

Cytoskeletal filament tracks propelled by force-producing molecular motors attached to a surface

“Watching the filaments move around like glowing worms reminded me that the motion inherent in life, so mysterious to the Greeks and early-twentieth-century researchers alike, was now without doubt explained by the amazing motions of mere molecules.”

“We have come a long way – from the vital forces of the ancients to the molecules of molecular biologists and biophysicists. If we are seeking the ‘life force,’ the force that animates life, then our search has been successful. This animating force is the random force of atoms, the jittering afterglow of the creation of the universe. The molecular machines, which take this undirected force and give it direction, embody the tight embrace of chance and necessity and are themselves the product of this embrace. Sculpted by evolution, the molecular machines of our bodies tame the molecular storm and turn it into the dance of life.”

Peter M. Hoffman, Life’s Ratchet, How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos, published by Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2012.

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