The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation grants Oliver Billker, professor and newly appointed director of The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Umeå University, SEK 30 million to study gene functions of malaria parasites.
"I am very grateful for this support. It is through this kind of generous and long-term funding that we will be able to ask big questions and to bring in the new technologies that we need to answer them," says Oliver Billker, who has recently been recruited as a professor of biotechnology at Umeå University.
"Our research wants to better understand the biology of malaria parasite in order to find new strategies against malaria, a disease that causes enormous suffering in the world, especially in countries with fewer financial resources and poor healthcare," says Oliver Billker.
Malaria kills nearly half a million people every year, mainly children. The disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, is caused by parasites that grow inside the patient's red blood cells.
"In order to fight malaria, we need to gain a deeper understanding of how the parasite works. This is a prerequisite for developing new medicines and vaccines against the disease. Our unique approach is to interrogate all parasite genes at once, to find those that are important for the parasite to grow and to infect mosquitoes. Among these will be the targets for the new drugs and vaccines that we urgently need to prevent disease and transmission”, says Oliver Billker.
Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation supports long-term basic research that benefits Sweden and gives researchers complete freedom to formulate and test their hypotheses. In its Board decision, the Foundation grants a total of SEK 640 million to 22 research projects in medicine, science and technology, which that are considered have the potential to result in scientific breakthroughs.
Among the other projects which are research projects in neuroscience, development fiber optic capacity, new materials for future electronics, cancer therapy, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the development of the oceans in changed environment. The project of Oliver Billker is entitled "The systematic identification of parasite gene function".
"It is very nice that Oliver Billker receives this project support. This is a proof that he is conducting high quality research, which shows that MIMS and Umeå University have done a good job recruitment. The funding increases the ability to understand and combat parasitic diseases, "says Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor at Umeå University.
For more information, please contact:
Oliver Billker, professor and director at MIMS,
Phone: 072-219 28 03
About Oliver Billker
Oliver Billker, born in Germany, studied biology at the Freie Universität Berlin. He graduated from the University of London for his dissertation on "Regulation of gametogenesis in malaria parasites", based on studies he performed at Imperial College in London, supported by a Marie Curie scholarship. Billker was from 1999-2002 postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, funded by an EMBO Long Term Fellowship. In 2003, he became Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College and five years later Principle Researcher. In 2007, he became a research leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and one of the leading researchers for the PlasmoGEM project in the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Malaria Program. Since September 2018, Oliver Billker is professor of biotechnology specialising in molecular genetics at Umeå University. He is currently director of MIMS, The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden at Umeå University.
Press release of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation , 2018-10-02
Picture: Mattias Pettersson (to be found for download on the University's media database)