Dr. Klemba studies the replication of the malaria parasite in human red blood cells and identifies and validates targets for drug development.
Malaria is responsible for the death of 1-2 million people annually. Most of malaria’s victims are children under the age of five living in tropical areas of the world. The emergence, over the past couple of decades, of parasites that are resistant to available drugs has limited our treatment options. There is, therefore, an urgent need for the development of new anti-malarial drugs. The malaria parasite, a single-cell organism, causes disease as it reproduces within human red blood cells. As it grows, the parasite consumes its host cell from the inside, devouring most of the red blood cell’s oxygen-carrying protein, hemoglobin. Dr. Klemba’s research aims to understand how the malaria parasite is able to pull off this massive catabolic feat. He focuses on enzymes called aminopeptidases, which chop hemoglobin into its amino acid building blocks. By understanding how these aminopeptidases work, he hopes to discover chinks in the parasite’s armor that could be exploited for the development of inhibitors that have anti-malarial activity.