Mike Blackman elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences

Mike Blackman.

Mike Blackman

Crick group leader Mike Blackman has been elected to join the Academy of Medical Sciences, in recognition of his research into how the malaria parasite infects and escapes red blood cells. 

The Academy of Medical Sciences is an independent body representing UK medical science, which aims to advance biomedical and health research to benefit society. 

This year it has elected 60 biomedical and health scientists to its Fellowship, the highest number ever to be elected in a year. 

Mike Blackman, group leader of the Malaria Biochemistry Laboratory, has been recognised for his research into how the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, infects and destroys red blood cells. In particular, his team focuses on a group of enzymes which control this complex process. Their work has helped improve our understanding of the malaria infection cycle within humans and also identify potential new ways to block it.

Recently, his lab identified a protein used by the malaria parasite to degrade and break down the membrane of red blood cells in order to escape. In laboratory experiments in human red blood cells, when the protein was blocked by selective drug-like molecules, the parasites trapped inside the red blood cells died.

Mike says: “We’re studying a crucial part of the malaria parasite’s life-cycle, when it invades a red blood cell and multiplies. The parasites then burst out from the cell and circulate in the blood stream where they can infect more cells, leading to severe disease. Increased knowledge about how this works could help inform the development and design of new targeted vaccines and anti-malaria drugs.

“It is an honour to have been elected this year to the Academy. This is also a recognition of the dedicated work of all my fabulous lab members and collaborators over the years.”

Paul Nurse, director of the Crick, said: “Many congratulations to Mike for this well-deserved honour in recognition of his excellent research into malaria. Mike’s work is a valuable reminder of the need to look beyond our own borders to better understand and tackle health problems on a global scale.” 

With Mike joining the academy, this takes the total number of fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences at the Crick to 29.

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