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NIH Awards up to $1.8M for Single-cell Genomics of Malaria

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded $1.8 million to Texas Biomedical Research Institute scientist Ian Cheeseman to continue research on single-cell genomics of malaria parasites.

The R01 grant awards Cheeseman and his colleagues $450,000 the first year, and potentially up to $1.8 million over four years, to perform further research on a method to sequence the genomes of individual malaria parasites, a method they developed and published in May in Genome Research. The method combines cell sorting and whole-genome amplification to generate samples for genotyping and next-generation sequencing.

Single-cell genomics was pioneered in cancer research to identify how tumors evolve during the progression of a disease. The development of a single-cell genomic approach to malaria will allow scientists to better characterize the particular parasites infecting patients, according to TBRI. Each malaria infection can contain multiple, genetically distinct strains of malaria parasites. For example, one factor that can differ between strains is the presence of drug resistance genes.

"We think about these infections as containing the sort of diversity you would see in a human village. We could previously only look at the village as a whole, but new technology developed here at Texas Biomed now allows us to identify everyone in the village directly," Cheeseman said in a statement. "This will help us understand how to best design drugs and vaccines to tackle this major global killer."