The main focus of the research in the VAR2CSA team is to develop the VAR2CSA antigen or parts hereof into a functional vaccine which can protect pregnant women against malaria. The target antigen has been defined and research efforts are now focused on enhancing immunogenicity and optimizing production to prepare for clinical trials. In addition, we are studying formulations of VAR2CSA with different adjuvants approved for human use, as well as making rat monoclonal antibodies to define inhibitory epitopes in our immunogens.
The VAR2CSA team is involved in a number of international collaborations with the aim of:
- Defining what part of VAR2CSA interacts with the receptor in the placenta (PreMalStruct collaboration)
- Elucidating the quaternary structure of VAR2CSA (Program of Excellence collaboration)
- Defining an immunogen eliciting parasite adhesion blocking antibodies (PMI2 collaboration)
- Quantifying the effects of malaria during pregnancy and study the naturally acquired immunity towards malaria during pregnancy (STOPPAM collaboration)
- Expressing VAR2CSA antigens in Tetrahymena host cells (CILMALVAC collaboration)
- Testing the effect of our vaccine produced antibodies at our field site in Tanzania (PMI2 collaboration)
The methods involved in the above mentioned research projects includes: Real-time RT-PCR, Flow cytometry, Confocal imaging, Protein expression, Protein purification, Binding inhibition assays, Biosensor assays, Multiplex analysis, Phage display, Hybridoma techniques, Animal immunizations, culturing and manipulations of malaria parasites and field work in Tanzania.
Please contact Morten Nielsen for further information regarding P. falciparum parasite work and testing of vaccination-generated antibodies on these parasites. Please contact Ali Salanti for further information regarding work related to VAR2CSA antigen design, production, QA and animal immunizations.