Leveraging passive immunity in the fight against Malaria
Hosted by: Professor Ian Cockburn
Malaria, the deadliest vector-borne disease globally, with an estimated 249 million cases reported worldwide in 2022 and disproportionately affect pregnant women and children under the age of 5 years. Despite progress in anti-malaria measures, efforts for consistent disease control have stalled. Developing an effective vaccine has been a longstanding challenge due to the complex life cycle of the parasite. While the approval of two malaria vaccines marks significant progress, there is still a crucial need for improvement. Leveraging passive immunity by directly administering human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) can potentially bridge the gaps in immunity and protect populations where the vaccine is currently inaccessible.
We isolated rare mAbs that target protective and highly conserved epitopes in the central repeat region of the Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) circumsporozoite (CSP). These potent mAbs not only confer a high degree of protection in controlled human malaria clinical trials but also in endemic areas. The novel epitopes targeted by these potent mAbs provide new and conserved sites of vulnerability, allowing the design of next-generation subunit vaccines that may increase the breadth and potency of humoral immunity to improve protective efficacy against malaria.
Dr Azza Idris is a physician-scientist with extensive training in immunology and pediatric infectious diseases, and her professional interests span discovery science and translational research. She holds a dual appointment at the Mass General Hospital Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.
Dr Idris received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at MIT before earning her dual MD/PhD degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. After pediatric residency training at Emory University, she specialized in pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Currently, Dr. Idris is board certified in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases.
Dr Idris completed her post-doctoral training at the NIH, where her work launched her career in malaria research. As a native of Sudan, she witnessed firsthand malaria’s devastating impact, which motivates her enduring commitment to eradicating the disease. Her research focused on developing innovative human monoclonal antibodies capable of providing protection against malaria. She was later appointed Head of the Malaria Unit at the Vaccine Research Center, where she led efforts in the discovery, development, and evaluation of antibodies and vaccines against malaria. She also supported the advancement of candidate therapeutics through preclinical testing, and her efforts have contributed to the first-in-human trial of monoclonal antibodies to prevent malaria.
At the Ragon, Dr Idris is devoted to studying the biology of the parasite and its interplay with the host immune response to develop novel interventions for combating malaria to make a lasting global health impact.