Department of Biology
The Wright Laboratory is interested in identifying new therapeutic targets for both genetic and infectious diseases by using systematic large-scale protein-based approaches to discover extracellular receptor-ligand interactions that are essential for cellular recognition processes.
Molecular interactions involved in cellular recognition events are typically very weak - often having monomeric half-lives of just fractions of a second - and so we have developed bespoke approaches that require creating highly avid soluble recombinant proteins to detect these fleeting binding events.
The laboratory has identified interactions that are essential for basic biological events of fundamental importance which notably include sperm-egg recognition in mammals, and the invasion of erythrocytes by the blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum - the parasite responsible for most clinical cases of the deadly infectious disease, malaria. Extracellular interactions are excellent therapeutic targets because they are directly accessible to systematically delivered drugs such as monoclonal antibodies.
For infectious diseases, proteins displayed on the surface of pathogens are good vaccine candidates because vaccine-elicited antibodies can destroy or disable the pathogen. We are using our protein-based technologies to identify vaccine targets for parasitic diseases and are currently developing vaccines for kinetoplastid parasites such as trypanosomes that affect some of the most disadvantaged people in the world.