AITHM James Cook University

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Annual Report

Diseases of High Burden in the Tropics

AITHM researchers working on Diseases of high burden in the Tropics focus on improving prevention, treatment and diagnosis of infectious and chronic diseases of relevance to the Tropics. Work in this area includes the development of new molecular therapeutics and diagnostics resulting from studies in immunology, host-pathogen interactions and epidemiology. Our vaccine development program includes vaccines for malaria and TB. Our researchers are also developing ways to exploit the potential benefits of tropical flora/fauna, including properties from helminths and toxins, to create new therapeutics. Work in this area includes:

  • Tropical diseases and parasites such as:
    • Tuberculous
    • Dengue
    • Malaria
  • Chronic non-communicable diseases which are prevalent in tropical populations including:
    • Diabetes
    • Mental illness
    • Respiratory inflammation/allergy
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • Wounds and healing
    • Age-related diseases
    • Occupational diseases related to industry in the region (e.g., mining).

Research Snapshots

Malaria: a significant adversary in the Tropics

Efforts to develop a vaccine for malaria have been stepped up as new technology opens up new possibilities for researchers. According to AITHM Deputy Director Professor Denise Doolan, faster and more sophisticated technology and equipment is allowing researchers to analyse all aspects of the parasite’s make-up, and the human body’s response to a malaria parasite invasion in a way that has not been possible before. Three different malaria vaccines are under development at AITHM, including two vaccine candidates being developed by AITHM Director, Distinguished Professor Louis Schofield.

Venom research: the place where medical and biological sciences meet

The workings and make-up of venom are analysed in depth by the structural biology team, led by Professor Norelle Daly and the toxinology team, led by Associate Professor Jamie Seymour. The structural biology team works with a range of venoms from animals including spiders, cone shells and scorpions, investigating the properties and potential therapeutic applications of peptides derived from proteins and venoms. The aim of Professor Daly’s research is to develop therapeutic drug leads for a range of conditions including inflammatory diseases and diabetes.

The toxinology research team, led by Professor Jamie Seymour, comprises students, academics and professionals from various backgrounds, and is interested in cutting-edge marine and freshwater toxin research. Based at the JCU eduQuarium, the team investigates   the potential for toxins from box jellyfish, irukandji jellyfish, stonefish, and other venomous marine animals to support novel therapeutics.