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A child dies from malaria every two minutes

In a world transformed by COVID-19, Burnet Institute remains dedicated to the elimination of infectious diseases, including viral hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis – and of course malaria.

Dr Hayley Bullen, a scientist in the Malaria Virulence and Drug Discovery Group here at Burnet, has been with us since 2008 and is currently undertaking dedicated research into new malaria drugs.

“While there are currently treatments for malaria, resistance has developed to even the gold standard treatment. This means there is an urgent ongoing need to continually supply the drug development pipeline with novel drugs effective against the parasites that cause malaria.

“To get new drugs into this pipeline, we need to know how they work, and that’s where I come in. I work in the lab with the parasites that cause malaria and carry out complex drug-based assays designed to discover exactly how these compounds kill the parasites so effectively. I then partner with chemists to use this information to improve their safety and activity. This is an essential component of their future development into antimalarial treatments.

“At the end of the day, resistance is always creeping along in the background, so we need to be continually working to stay one step ahead of the parasite if we are to ever eliminate malaria.”

At the heart of things

To support not only Hayley’s malaria research, but all laboratory-based research at Burnet, we need to keep our lab equipment up to date.

We aim to raise AUD$16,049 by the end of October, in order to provide an important new piece of equipment for our laboratories, the Megafuge 8R, not only critical for Hayley’s malaria research, but for all lab-based research.

Megafuge

As Hayley shared:

“It may seem intangible, looking at a centrifuge and imagining how this single piece of equipment could have an effect in the real world. But it does. Without the correct equipment, we can’t progress as quickly in our research.

“Any delay on our end, means a further delay in getting these novel compounds into the next stage of the development pipeline, and ultimately a delay in new antimalarial drugs coming onto the market. Having the correct equipment is imperative to our overall aim of saving lives.”

It was Hayley who put up her hand and suggested that the Megafuge 8R was not only necessary, but an imperative addition to our lab. The process of centrifugation is critical not just for her own research, but for all lab-based research being done at Burnet.

“We use centrifugation for nearly every aspect of lab research. It can be used for something as simple as separating the red blood cells that our malaria parasites live in, from the liquid food that we feed them. Or it can be used for more complex procedures such as separating DNA or individual proteins from various cell types including viruses, bacteria and parasites. There are countless ways in which all lab-based scientists use centrifugation on a daily basis.

“Basically, I use it to separate elements to help show how the malaria drugs are fighting the parasites. A centrifuge is absolutely critical to being able to separate elements and see clearly what is happening within the parasite.”

At one end, we have children around the world in desperate need of new effective antimalarial drugs. At the other end, we have Hayley in the Burnet laboratories, testing new antimalarial drugs for manufacture. There is a very direct line between well-equipped labs here at Burnet and saving lives.