During my early research career, I worked and visited areas such as Amazonian Peru, where I saw the terrible impact that the cycle of disease and poverty had on peoples’ lives. This had a profound effect on me, and I wanted to see if I could help make a difference on a larger scale by helping to develop a medicine.
I started my role on tafenoquine for P. vivax malaria at GSK based in the UK in 2010, recruiting patients into one of our clinical studies in Thailand. To date, our programme has involved over 10 studies and enrolled over 2000 subjects across 8 countries where P. vivax malaria is prevalent. This has involved a team of over 40 central GSK staff including clinical scientists/operations, data managers, statisticians, regulatory scientists, chemists and engineers.
Why did you choose to focus on malaria?
While good progress has been made to help people with malaria, it continues to be a major global public health problem. The human disease is caused by five different types of parasites; the one I’m working on is called P. vivax malaria. This parasite causes around 8.5 million infections every year and is most common in South and South East Asia, Latin America and the horn of Africa.
An infection occurs when a person is bitten by the female Anopheles mosquito carrying the parasite. The parasite enters the person’s blood stream, and in the case of P. vivax malaria, has an exceptional ability to ‘hide’ in the liver and reawaken weeks or even years after the first infection to cause relapses. These relapses cause sickness and, in some cases, even death.