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Research Overview

Judy Sakanari, PhD

Filariasis Core Director, CDIPD,UCSF


I am the lead scientist for the Bill & Melinda Gates funded project to screen compounds with Brugia malayi, the roundworm that causes the disease known as lymphatic filariasis or elephantiasis. Our team recently developed a low cost and simple visual imaging system that utilizes a novel software program to capture video recordings to assay compounds with these large worms. Rather than using laborious and subjective methods of analyzing the data, our method allows us to quantify each worm’s movement simultaneously, on an entire plate, with each plate taking only a few seconds to read.

My research also involves other parasite projects including the development of a schistosome cell line for use in drug discovery and screening studies and characterizing various parasite proteins as potential drug targets.

In addition, for the past 15 years, I have taught a Medical Parasitology course at U.C. Berkeley. This is an intensive 6-week summer session course covering medically important helminthic and protozoan parasites that cause morbidity and mortality worldwide. Students learn about the epidemiology, pathogenesis and diagnosis of the infections as well as the ecology and evolution of the host-parasite relationship.


A cysteine protease inhibitor rescues mice from a lethal Cryptosporidium parvum infection. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Dec;57(12):6063-73.
Investigation of the proteolytic functions of an expanded cercarial elastase gene family in Schistosoma mansoni. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012 Apr;6(4):e1589
WormAssay: a novel computer application for whole-plate motion-based screening of macroscopic parasites. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012 Jan;6(1):e14.
Proteomic analysis of human skin treated with larval schistosome peptidases reveals distinct invasion strategies among species of blood flukes. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2011 Sep;5(9):e1337.
Cysteine protease inhibitors as chemotherapy: lessons from a parasite target. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Sep 28;96(20):11015-22
Expression and alteration of the S2 subsite of the Leishmania major cathepsin B-like cysteine protease. Biochem J. 1999 May 15;340 ( Pt 1):113-7

Press Releases

SFGate: Folding microscope opens up other worlds

The Foldscope assembled in minutes enables scientists to identify maladies like malaria, tapeworm infections, African sleeping sickness and schistosomiasis. "I've tested it on various parasites and it's just incredible - just the fact that it's so portable, so inexpensive, so easy to use," said J...

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Grand Challenges Award to Judy Sakanari

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the latest set of grant awards for its Grand Challenges Explorations program . Over 80 new grants of US$100,000 each will be made to investigators from 14 countries, including CDPID’s Judy Sakanari. The initiative funds innovative ideas to solve s...

PLoS NTDs: WormAssay: A Novel Computer Application for Whole-Plate Motion-Based Screening of Macroscopic Parasites

WormAssay is a Mac application for the automated screening of macroparasites and other macroscopic organisms in 6- through 96-well microtiter plates. Chelsea Bidlow, Academic Specialist working for a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project at The Sandler Center for Drug Discovery at UCSF is scoring ...

Animal Planet Channel: Monsters Inside Me, “Suicide Attackers”

A fit and active dance instructor is suddenly stopped in her tracks by unbearable abdominal pain and vomiting, and a mysterious mass in her colon is revealed to have decaying worms. A middle-aged banker gets seizures from a parasite he picked up from traveling to his home country, Haiti. A scientist...

Press Releases

The Foldscope assembled in minutes enables scientists to identify maladies like malaria, t...

James H. McKerrow, MD, PhD, will serve as the second Dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy...

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the latest set of grant awards for its ...

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