March 6, 2020
The sixth Molecular Aspects of Malaria conference, MAM2020, was held from 23-27 February in the beachside town of Lorne, Victoria, Australia, marking the conference’s twentieth anniversary. Attracting over 450 delegates from around the world, MAM2020 is a major international conference for malaria researchers, largely focused on cutting-edge discovery research on the malaria parasite, with the mission of developing novel interventions to reduce the global burden of malaria. The program covered drug resistance, genetics, molecular epidemiology, malaria pathogenesis, drug development, immunity and vaccines, and parasite cell biology across the entire life-cycle.
The Australian Centre of Research Excellence in Malaria Elimination (ACREME) was well-represented at MAM2020. Notably it was co-chaired by Chief Investigator Prof. Freya Fowkes (Burnet Institute), along with Prof. Tania De Koning Ward and Assoc. Prof. Justin Boddey.
Speakers included Ms Eliza Davidson (Burnet Institute) who presented important findings on the complex interplay between malaria, iron deficiency, and anaemia in pregnant women in Papua New Guinea. Dr Bridget Barber (QIMR Berghofer) highlighted the relatively high burden of P. knowlesi malaria in Sabah, Malaysia. Dr Maria Rebelo (QIMR-Berghofer) described volunteer infection studies to investigate the viability of artemisinin-resistant and artemisinin-sensitive parasites after drug treatment. Assoc. Prof. Alyssa Barry presented data on the surveillance of artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum on the island of Papua New Guinea. Prof. James McCarthy (QIMR-Berghofer) described the development of a genetically attenuated parasite blood stage vaccine and its testing in healthy volunteers.
Notable poster presentations included Dr Moses Laman (PNG IMR), who described the implementation of novel genomics-informed malaria surveillance strategy for strengthening data-driven responses in Papua New Guinea. Dr Aung Pyae Phyo (Burnet Institute) reported on the artemisinin and partner drug resistance genotypes-phenotypes in Myanmar. Finally, Ms Benishar Kombut (PNG IMR) described field evaluations of highly-sensitive diagnostics for malaria infections in pregnancy in PNG.
Commendably, the conference organizers ensured that MAM2020 was certified as a carbon neutral conference for the first time, reducing carbon footprint where possible, and offsetting CO2 emissions produced by travel and food/drinks/electricity consumed by attendees. Other notable initiatives included an equal female:male speaker ratio, a parents’ room, and over twenty competitive travel awards offered to researchers from malaria endemic countries.
Research on malaria elimination in the Asia Pacific region was well-represented, with attendees from numerous countries in the region including Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea.
MAM2020 provided a valuable forum for malaria researchers to sharing exciting discoveries, exchange critical technological know-how, and establish new collaborations, with the shared motivation of developing novel interventions to tackle the global scourge of malaria.