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Federal funds may help in fight against malaria

Binghamton researchers have been working for several years on a project designed to uncover just how the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum evolved resistance to the once-effective medication chloroquine.

J. Koji Lum, an associate professor of anthropology and biological sciences, has received a supplement — $360,120 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences — to that original $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The initial project, now in its third year, involves extracting parasite DNA from archived samples of human sera collected from the 1950s to the present. Lum hopes to find changes in the amino acid sequences of the parasites that resulted in drug-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum. He and his team have zeroed in on about a dozen DNA sequences that seem promising.

The new funding will allow Lum and his colleagues at Binghamton to partner with Swedish researchers to characterize the effect of these amino acid changes on drug resistance in living parasites.

The grant provides salary support for a graduate student and a post-doctoral researcher for two years as well as for the purchase of about $100,000 in equipment.

This funding will allow Lum to develop the infrastructure at Binghamton to insert DNA sequences of interest into living malaria parasites in order to determine their effect on drug resistance across a variety of genetic backgrounds. The technique to transfer genes into living parasites, which was developed by Lum’s Swedish colleagues, may provide vital new weapons in the war against malaria, one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08