Ian Bathurst Global Health Travel Award recipient – Josea Rono

Josea Rono
Josea Rono, PhD student, Kenya Medical Research Institute - Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya

Current area of research: Immunology

1. How did you become interested in malaria research?

I was initially interested in public health and the use of interventions to improve it. I then became drawn to malaria research, since it causes so much suffering in my country yet there are tools available to help, which means we have a real possibility to have an impact.

2. How has malaria affected your life?

I grew up in Nairobi, where malaria is not very common. Even so, I do remember suffering from malaria when I was 4 years old. I felt really hot and then suddenly very cold. It was very scary. Luckily, I got treatment and felt better in a matter of 2 days.

3. What excites you about drug discovery?

It sounds obvious, but for me it’s the possibility of discovering something new. It could be understanding more out how current medicines work or identifying a completely new molecule active against the parasite. If you think about artemisinin, it’s a drug that has been used for centuries and we know it works, but what we don’t know is exactly how it works. We still have a lot to learn.  

4. Can you explain what area of malaria biology you are researching and why it is so important?

My projects focus on different aspects of the acquisition and maintenance of protective immunity to malaria. In particular, they address antibody-mediated immunity and the impressive ability of Plasmodium falciparum parasites to adapt. This kind of research could contribute to the development of an efficacious malaria vaccine.

5. What were the benefits of attending the drug discovery conference?

It was very exciting to attend; I learnt a lot from presentations made by leaders in the field of malaria immunology. I had the opportunity to showcase my own research work and to discuss it with fellow conference attendees.

6. What are your near and long-term career goals and how will the Keystone Meeting help you to fulfil these? 

My short-term goal is to help identify and develop novel interventions for the control of malaria. So far, our group has identified parasite antigens that are targets of protective immunity to malaria and could thus be promising candidates for malaria vaccine development.

In the long-term, I aim to be a leader in the translation of scientific research into innovations for the improvement of human health. I am particularly interested in a research career in immunology and vaccine development. The Keystone Meeting provided an invaluable forum for interacting with other scientists, sharing ideas and establishing new collaborations to achieve my career objectives.