Research in my lab emphasizes the development of new molecular tools aimed at facilitating investigation of human pathogens that have been difficult to study due to an inability to readily and efficiently manipulate their genomes. The lab is especially focused on Plasmodium falciparum, the parasitic agent causing malaria, of which there are some 600 million cases and 1-2 million deaths annually in developing countries. While knowledge of this complex pathogen is rapidly improving in the post-genomic era, many fundamental aspects of its biology and success as a human pathogen remain inaccessible.
A major effort in the lab to overcome this difficulty uses fundamental biological and chemical concepts to design and build chemically regulated modules that can be used to control gene expression at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level. Systematically, the biochemical and biophysical parameters governing the behavior of these synthetic modules will be established, and the insights gained will be used to optimize their design and function. In addition to applying these tools to investigate P. falciparum biology, we are interested in integrating them with existing technologies to improve the range of useful programmed cellular behaviors achievable in other biological systems while using the smallest set of easily controlled inputs.