Genome-based Malaria Vaccine


Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic infection caused by Plasmodia. There are five species that cause the disease, of which P. falciparum and P. vivax are considered the greatest threat. There is a global public health need for a malaria vaccine. Traditional approaches based on only a single (or few) proteins identified historically have had limited successes for the Plasmodium parasite, which has co-evolved with humans and in doing so has developed strategies to subvert the host immune response.

The JCU-based Doolan laboratory has pioneered and applied cutting-edge technology platforms to systematically identify and prioritise from the complete genomic sequence of the Plasmodium parasite the subset of key pathogen antigens that interact with the host immune system, using unique T cell or antibody based approaches and biologically relevant functional outcomes. The laboratory has established a niche area for immunomics based approaches to antigen discovery and has (to the best of our knowledge) the only dataset of Plasmodium antigens systematically identified from genome sequence based on T cell reactivity (T cell target antigens); most antigen discovery projects have focused on antibody responses as the immune readout and hence this approach is unique. Moreover, the subset of Plasmodium antigens preferentially recognised by T‑cell responses are distinct from the antigens recognised by antibody responses. The researchers have shown that a number of the novel antigens identified from the genome using immunomics approaches are targets of protective immune responses against malaria in animal models, and that they are more immunogenic and protective than the current high priority vaccine antigens. Some of these antigens are conserved across malaria species and thus are expected to provide the basis for a vaccine to provide cross-species protective immunity. These antigens represent promising antigens for incorporation into a novel genome-based malaria vaccine which would prevent both clinical disease and malaria transmission, and would be a valuable component of the malaria eradication agenda.

The vaccine candidates we have identified are novel with two major advantages:

  • More immunogenic and protective antigens than the current competitors in development
  • Potential cross‑species protective immunity, i.e. against all Plasmodium parasite species
  • The major market for malaria vaccine is in developing countries. There are 200+ million people affected, making a vaccine a global health need.
  • Additional markets for the vaccine include use for military personnel & for travel vaccination.

James Cook University are seeking partners for further development of the novel malaria vaccine candidates.


  • Development partner
  • Commercial partner
  • Licensing
  • University spin out
  • Seeking investment
  • Provisional patent
  • Patent application submitted
  • Prof Denise Doolan