Professor of immunology and infectious diseases Flaminia Catteruccia has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, along with 32 other mid-career biomedical researchers. With the appointment comes 9 million US dollars worth of research funding over seven years.
The support is given directly to Prof Catteruccia and is not linked to a specific project. This means that she has complete freedom to pursue her own interests, even if they change.
Prof Catteruccia studies the relationship between the malaria parasite and the Anopheles mosquito in which they live. Her team previously discovered that a hormone transferred from the male to the female mosquito while mating turns on a gene that protects the female’s eggs from the parasite inside her. Prof Catteruccia is hoping that this insight into mosquito reproduction will allow her lab to develop drugs that can directly target the malaria parasite while minimising the risk of resistance.
Her lab is also dedicated to disseminating the anti-malarial tools they develop in the lab to the field. For example, they work on mosquito sterilisation and life-shortening compounds for inclusion in mosquito control programmes, as well as gene drive systems to spread anti-parasite genes through wild mosquito populations.
Prof Catteruccia began her researcher career in her native Italy at the University of Rome La Sapienza, before completing her PhD at Imperial College London, where she afterwards led her own research group. She is currently based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (© AcademiaNet)