I study host-pathogen interactions using basic and advanced molecular techniques to understand the role of helminth proteins in parasite biology and pathogenesis. My work aims to provide a detailed understanding of these critical processes. My long-term objective is to use structural and biochemical data as a platform to guide the design of new methods for treating helminth infections. This includes discovery of compounds with unrealized anthelminthic properties, repositioning of FDA-approved drugs or development of vaccines targeting essential worm proteins.
Recent work in the lab has focused on characterizing the role of hookworm proteases and antioxidant proteins in parasite biology (e.g. bloodfeeding, immune evasion). In parallel, I aim to understand, at the molecular level, how small molecule compounds disrupt parasite protein activity in order to develop them as novel anthelminthics. I have developed and optimized a robust, whole organism, high-throughput screening method to facilitate this process. To date we have screened over 40,000 molecules from compound libraries employing this assay. Several of these compounds are in preclinical testing using our in vitro parasite culture systems and reliable, small animal models of helminth infection. The most recent development in this area is a collaborative project investigating the impact of nanoparticle drug delivery platforms on pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles of existing chemotherapeutics. My ultimate goals are to increase drug efficacy, spectrum of activity and ultimately mitigate the further emergence of drug resistant helminths.