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June 24, 2004

Malaria Researcher Receives Global Infectious Disease Award

George Dimopoulos, PhD, an assistant professor in the School’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, received the 2004 Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholars Award on Global Infectious Disease. He will receive $50,000 annually for up to three years.

The award supports new investigators of outstanding promise in the basic biological and clinical sciences relevant to research on molecular and cellular mechanisms of parasitic and infectious diseases that are caused by viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoal or helminthic pathogens of major global public health concern.

Dr. Dimopoulos’s lab will study the innate immune system of the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae and how it interacts with and controls Plasmodia infection in the mosquito. During his postdoctoral work, he identified and molecularly characterized a mosquito pattern recognition receptor, gram negative bacteria binding protein (GNBP) that was highly induced upon Plasmodium infection suggesting a function in the mosquito’s defense against the parasite. Studies in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster have indicated a significant role of GNBPs in immune signaling and activation of the Toll pathway.

“My lab can now, through the support of the Ellison Medical Foundation, continue research on the GNBPs to elucidate its role in the defense against Plasmodium,” said Dr. Dimopoulos.

He explained that the different member of the GNBP gene family will initially be screened for effect on Plasmodium infection. Promising candidates will then be subjected to functional assays that will provide information on possible interactions with the different parasite stages and immune signaling capacity.

Dr. Dimopoulos said, “The Anopheles mosquito has in recent years become an important model organism for the study of interactions between the innate immune system and a protozoan parasite, and the knowledge gained from these studies could in the future be exploited for the development of novel malaria control strategies.”

“These areas are relatively neglected in federally funded research. It is therefore, very important that the Ellison Medical Foundation has recognized Dr. Dimopoulous’s innovative work and will support it for the next four years,” said Sharon S. Krag, PhD, associate dean for Graduate Education and Research.

Dr. Dimopoulos also recently received a 2004 Faculty Innovation Fund grant from the School of Public Health.--Kenna Lowe

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.