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Joseph D. Smith, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute
Research Associate Professor, Department of Global Health, University of Washington
Area of Expertise: malaria
As part of Seattle BioMed’s Malaria Program, Joe Smith’s work is focused on the biology of the malaria parasite during the blood stage. The emphasis of his research is to develop blood stage vaccines targeting parasite invasion of erythrocytes and cytoadhesion of infected erythrocytes.
A major area of interest for Smith's lab is to better understand the processes of antigenic variation and cytoadherence of Plasmodium falciparum infected erythrocytes. During blood stage development, P. falciparum parasites export cytoadhesive proteins to the surface of infected erythrocytes and sequester them from blood circulation by binding to blood microvessels. This process allows parasites to avoid spleen-dependent killing mechanisms, but it is involved in the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria and placental malaria.
Infected erythrocyte binding is mediated by a large family of clonally variant proteins, called PfEMP1 proteins, which switch expression to evade host immunity and orchestrate parasite binding tropism. We are interested in understanding PfEMP1 protein trafficking to the erythrocyte surface, how this protein family evolves to evade immunity, and in developing interventions to prevent cytoadhesion-based complications of malaria infections.
Another research focus is to design novel vaccine approaches to elicit invasion blocking antibodies that can prevent parasite invasion of erythrocytes.
- Cytoadherence of infected erythrocytes
- Pregnancy malaria
- Invasion blocking vaccine approaches