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University of Maryland Researcher Receives Prestigious Clincal Science Award

Friday, January 12, 2007

 Dr. Christopher Plowe has won funding for his malaria research in Mali.

$1.5 million award will support malaria research in Mali, West Africa

Christopher V. Plowe, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a researcher at its Center for Vaccine Development, has received the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to support malaria research in Mali, West Africa. The $1.5 million award will allow Dr. Plowe to combine molecular studies in the Center for Vaccine Development with clinical trials in Mali to understand how malaria parasites evolve to evade attack from the human immune system.

"Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasite that kills more than 5,000 people every day, 90 percent of whom are children in Africa under the age of five," says Dr. Plowe. "Malaria parasites mutate and evolve so quickly that drugs and vaccines are always chasing a moving target. This award will help us exploit the amazing advances in malaria genomics to improve a malaria vaccine we are currently testing in Mali. We need to beat the malaria parasite at its own game by making a vaccine that helps the body’s defenses recognize malaria parasites whether they are wearing a red parka or a blue blazer."

Dr. Plowe is one of seven outstanding mid-career physician-scientists from across the United States to receive this year’s award. Each recipient will receive $1.5 million to support the translation of the latest scientific advances into clinical applications that will improve human health. Dr. Plowe’s team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and colleagues at the University of Bamako in Mali hope that learning how the malaria parasite is shaped by both natural and vaccine-induced immunity will lead to a vaccine that protects people against genetically diverse malaria parasites.

The Doris Duke Award will also support research training for medical students and young physicians to work with Dr. Plowe and his team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and in Africa.

Established in 1996, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation seeks to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, wildlife conservation, medical research and the prevention of child maltreatment.

U.S. nonprofit medical research institutions were invited to nominate two investigators for the Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, which was established in 1999. Nominees must demonstrate leadership, a history of excellence in translational clinical research, and a long-term commitment to research. Dr. Plowe was chosen from a field of 65 nominees.

"Opportunities are greater than ever to translate basic discoveries into the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of disease," says Joan E. Spero, president of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. "We are extremely pleased to be able to support another group of outstanding physician-scientists devoted to this goal not only through their research, but also through their mentoring activities."

"This award is a great honor for Dr. Plowe and our center," says Myron Levine, MD, DTPH, professor of medicine, microbiology & immunology and pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the Center for Vaccine Development. "The Doris Duke awards are highly competitive and extremely prestigious. Everyone at the Center for Vaccine Development is very proud of Dr. Plowe for having been selected as one of this year’s recipients of the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award."



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