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Dr Melissa Kapulu

Dr Melissa Kapulu

Podcast interview

Malaria transmission and human infection studies

The efficacy of vaccine developed in naïve population (UK or US) often drops dramatically when used in endemic populations, where individuals are exposed to the vaccine disease target. The Human Malaria Infection Model looks at naturally acquired immunity and correlates of protection. Furthermore, scientists in affected areas build capacity and knowledge base, and integration of scientific thought and processes.

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Melissa Kapulu

Postdoctoral research scientist

Malaria transmission

I am a research scientist in infectious disease immune-epidemiology with a background in immunology and vaccinology. My key interests are in vector-borne, water-facilitated and water-borne infections of major public health importance focusing on their epidemiology and immunology with the aim of characterising targets for vaccine design and efficacy evaluation. This is alongside building African research capacity and science communication.

I am keen on understanding naturally acquired immunity to especially malaria for vaccine design and evaluation. This underpins my main interests in understanding immunological aspects of malaria transmission with the aim of identifying, developing, and testing the efficacy of vaccine candidate targets.

I am particularly interested also in developing and/or establishing tools and model systems to identify, characterise, understand and evaluate vaccines, particularly the controlled human infection models, in disease endemic populations. I have been able to set up the falciparum malaria human challenge model in Kilifi, Kenya to primarily unravel the course of malaria infections in the context of naturally acquired immunity and thus help identify key immune-protective targets for vaccine development. Using this same platform, I develop a human malaria transmission model that would enable mainly vaccine efficacy evaluation for particularly malaria transmission-blocking interventions. This underpins my research focus on characterising signatures of malaria transmission by looking for molecular and immunological markers that can be developed as tools for detecting and preventing human-to-mosquito malaria transmissibility potential (diagnostics and vaccines).

Other interests are in characterising immune-prevalence for enteric disease, particularly Shigella, with the aim of informing clinical trial evaluation of vaccine targets.