16 Nov 2020

ARC Discovery grant for drug research against blood-feeding parasite nematodes

L-R: Prof Nicola Harris (CIA), Dr Tiffany Smith and Prof Robin
Gasser are collaborating on an ARC project to control parasitic
nematodes which are a problem in agricultural animals.
Congratulations to Professor Nicola Harris, lead researcher of a group which has received an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant for $445,250 across three years to investigate control of parasitic nematodes.

Prof Nicola Harris and Dr Tiffany Smith have teamed up with Professor Robin Gasser, who specialises in parasitology at the University of Melbourne, to discover drugs which will work against blood-feeding parasite nematodes of animals. This project aims to identify more sustainable control strategies of nematode parasites of livestock, which cost more than 400 million yearly to the Australian wool and meat industry. 

The project aims to identify novel nematicides and generate knowledge of the parasite biology using a combination of high-throughput drug discovery screens with cutting-edge OMICs approaches to target a key molecular pathway of importance to the survival of nematodes, namely their blood-feeding behaviour. 

The assay for high-throughput drug discovery was developed by Dr Tiffany Smith using hookworm, a blood feeding parasite with species infecting humans, dogs and rodents. An estimated 500-700 million people in areas of developing countries with poor access to sanitation are infected - and their resulting anaemia represents a significant heath burden for women and children. The newly funded ARC grant aims to extend this work to related parasites that infect livestock and cause significant economic losses to the Australian agricultural industry.

Prof Harris said, "We expect that one of the results of this project would be an improvement of international efforts to control these parasites. Depending how the research progresses, we would be pursuing commercialisation of our nematicide candidates. In this event, agricultural producers both in Australian and worldwide would reap significant benefits."

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