Daniel Goldberg, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology, is a leading investigator of the basic biology of the malaria parasite. Malaria kills more than a million people per year, and the parasite’s ability to resist current treatments is rapidly increasing. Goldberg, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, seeks to identify factors that are essential to the parasite’s ability to infect red blood cells, feed on their contents and reproduce. His results highlight potential targets in the parasite for new drug treatments.
Goldberg has previously shown that malaria has some redundancy built into its most important processes. When a key protein is missing or disabled, a back-up protein can fill in and keep the process going.
Because of this redundancy and the parasite’s ability to rapidly mutate, Goldberg suspects that successful control of malaria will require treatment with multiple drugs. To that end, he has found several potential targets for new anti-malarial drugs.
For example, two years ago Goldberg identified a molecule that was essential to the malaria parasite’s ability to unleash infectious proteins inside the host cell.
“Without this protein, plasmepsin V, those other proteins can’t get out of the parasite and into the blood cell, and the infectious process stops,” Goldberg explains.
Goldberg has also identified an amino acid the parasite needs to survive. He currently is tracking down the enzyme that malaria uses to steal this amino acid from its host.