1. How has malaria affected your life?
I grew up in Mumbai, which experiences heavy monsoons for 4 months from June to September, thus providing an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. There are many incidences of malaria during and after this season. Also, Mumbai also has one of the largest slums in the world. The conditions are extremely poor and the people living there have little protection from the malaria-transmitting mosquitoes that abound.
2. What area of malaria biology you are researching and why it is important?
Our lab is exploring the basic biology of the malaria parasite to better understand how it functions and interacts with the host. My research is focused on a Plasmodium falciparum ribosomal protein, which is exported to the surface of infected red blood cells. We have found that by inhibiting the activity of this protein using antibodies we can arrest the growth of the parasites. By better understanding the role of this protein in the parasite’s lifecycle we can understand how to stop it, thereby potentially identifing new drug targets.
3. What excites you about malaria research?
I am drawn to basic biology research. I find understanding the details of the malaria parasite’s biology fascinating. The possibility to discover something new is certainly exciting. With malaria being such a deadly disease and affecting millions of people, if these discoveries can then have an impact on the day to day life of the common man that would be even more exciting.
4. What are the biggest challenges to achieving malaria eradication?
I think there are a great many challenges. In particular, the development of drug resistance is a big issue. This emphasises the importance of basic research to understand the parasite. For India in particular, I think the fact that we have such a huge population and a lot of poverty adds to the challenges.
5. What are the benefits of attending this drug discovery conference?
I am working on my first post doc at the moment. So this is the first opportunity I have had to design my own experiments. I have lots of ideas I want to explore, which is really giving me the opportunity to grow as a researcher. The independence is great. This conference will provide an opportunity to present and discuss my work with experts who will have new perspectives to offer. There are certain points in my research where I find that I get stuck. This will be a real chance for me to overcome those sticking points and move forward.