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Professor Mike Blackman

BSc MSc PhD

Professor
of Molecular Parasitology

Room
Room 315

LSHTM
Keppel Street
London
WC1E 7HT
United Kingdom

Tel.
+44 (0)203 796 2328

My group focuses on host cell invasion and egress by the malaria parasite, with a particular interest in proteolytic enzymes involved in these events. Research in our lab makes extensive use of biochemical techniques and cell biology, with much application of heterologous expression systems and genetic modification by transfection of the human malaria parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium knowlesi. Currently, much of our work is centred on the structure, function and substrates of a subtilisin-like parasite protease called SUB1 and a cysteine protease called SERA6 that play key roles in egress, as well as the upstream protease and kinase-mediated signals that trigger SUB1 activity.

Affiliations

Department of Infection Biology
Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases

Centres

Malaria Centre

Teaching

I teach externally at UCL and was until recently Scientific Coordinator of an EU-funded Initial Training Network called ‘InterMalTraining – intervention strategies against malaria’ which contributed to training of a European-wide cohort of 13 PhD students. In addition I have supervised a total of 17 PhD students to completion of their projects in my laboratory, and currently co-supervise 1 PhD student.

Research

Malaria is a devastating disease which impacts on the lives of about half of the world’s population. Malaria parasites infect and grow within red blood cells, replicating asexually within a membrane-bound parasitophorous vacuole. In a process called egress, the vacuole and host cell membranes eventually rupture to release merozoites which invade new cells, disseminating the infection and leading to clinical disease. Our research focuses primarily on the molecular mechanisms involved in invasion and egress by Plasmodium falciparum, the agent of the most dangerous form of malaria. We wish to understand the molecular mechanisms by which the parasite enters and exits its host cell, and we are working to dissect the structural changes that occur in the host erythrocyte and at the parasite surface during invasion and egress. In collaboration with chemists and structural biologists, we aim to translate this information into health benefits by seeking to identify drug-like inhibitors of enzymes and other parasite molecules involved in egress and invasion, and promote their development as potential antimalarial drugs. Our work has also provided information on how to improve the design of much-needed malaria vaccines based on merozoite surface proteins. Our work is currently funded by the Francis Crick Institute, LifeArc, and the Wellcome Trust.

I am on the Editorial board of the journals PLoS Pathogens, Molecular Microbiology and Eukaryotic Cell, and sit on the Executive Committee of the EVIMalaR European Network of Excellence (www.evimalar.org).

Research Area
Drug discovery and development
Parasites
Protozoa
Discipline
Biochemistry
Cell biology
Genetics
Parasitology
Disease and Health Conditions
Infectious disease
Malaria

Selected Publications

Peptidic boronic acids are potent cell-permeable inhibitors of the malaria parasite egress serine protease SUB1.
Lidumniece E; Withers-Martinez C; Hackett F; Collins CR; Perrin AJ; Koussis K; Bisson C; Blackman MJ; Jirgensons A
2021
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Blood glucose concentration time series in mice infected with malaria parasites
Prior KF; Middleton B; Owolabi ATY; Westwood ML; Holland J; O'Donnell AJ; Blackman MJ; Skene DJ; Reece SE
2021
Plasmodium chabaudi genotype DK parasite stages during time series
Prior KF; Middleton B; Owolabi ATY; Westwood ML; Holland J; O'Donnell AJ; Blackman MJ; Skene DJ; Reece SE
2021
Plasmodium schizont densities in culture grown with and without isoleucine, as well as isoleucine starvation for different durations of time
Prior KF; Middleton B; Owolabi ATY; Westwood ML; Holland J; O'Donnell AJ; Blackman MJ; Skene DJ; Reece SE
2021
Plasmodium schizont proportion in culture grown with and without isoleucine
Prior KF; Middleton B; Owolabi ATY; Westwood ML; Holland J; O'Donnell AJ; Blackman MJ; Skene DJ; Reece SE
2021
Synchrony between daily rhythms of malaria parasites and hosts is driven by an essential amino acid.
Prior KF; Middleton B; Owolabi ATY; Westwood ML; Holland J; O'Donnell AJ; Blackman MJ; Skene DJ; Reece SE
2021
Wellcome Open Research
Targeted metabolomics on malaria-infected mouse blood
Prior KF; Middleton B; Owolabi ATY; Westwood ML; Holland J; O'Donnell AJ; Blackman MJ; Skene DJ; Reece SE
2021
Autocatalytic activation of a malarial egress protease is druggable and requires a protein cofactor.
Tan MSY; Koussis K; Withers-Martinez C; Howell SA; Thomas JA; Hackett F; Knuepfer E; Shen M; Hall MD; Snijders AP
2021
The EMBO journal
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