Ian Bathurst Global Health Travel Award recipient – Augustina Frimpong

Augustina Frimpong
2013
Augustina Frimpong, MPhil Student, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana

1. How did you become interested in malaria research?

In Ghana, everyone undertakes a 1-year period of national service. After studying for my BSc Laboratory Technology at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, in 2009, I took mine in a Health Centre in the Ashanti region of Ghana. At that time, I met a patient, a young woman of 19 who was pregnant and suffering with malaria. She had anaemia and an extremely high parasite count. She had come from a small village in the area and it was her first antenatal visit. She was treated with sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine.

When I returned the next day, I received the news that she had passed away. It really affected me. I questioned why and how it happened; I had read that as Africans, we have a level of immunity to malaria, and so I was hoping she would survive. I then decided to undertake a Master’s course on host–parasite interactions, which lead me to my current studies in immunology at the University of Ghana.

2. What area of malaria biology you are researching and why is it important?

I’m currently researching the blood-stage of the parasite’s lifecycle, with particular interest in the surface protein, VAR2CSA. This protein is expressed by infected red blood cells during a placental malaria infection and has been identified as a leading vaccine candidate to protect against malaria during pregnancy. It’s an exciting field of research as a vaccine would be a key tool to protect mothers and their unborn children from malaria.

3. What are the benefits of attending this drug discovery conference?

There will be a confluence of researchers, clinicians and intellectuals with remarkable expertise in the field of malaria research. By attending the conference, I hope to have the opportunity to meet and learn from them.

It will also be the ideal platform for me to make my work known, to receive suggestions and contributions that will help me progress. I can then share all the information that I learn with my colleagues back in the immunology department at the University.

4. What are your near and long-term career goals?

I would like to specialise in the field of malaria immunology to better understand the pathogenesis, transmission and immunobiology of the disease. This kind of research will help us to identify new drugs and vaccines to solve the various health challenges in my community and the world at large, especially for pregnant women and children.