Welcome to the website of the Higgins lab

We are a group of researchers fascinated by the tricks that parasites use as they interact with their human hosts. We understand in molecular detail the interactions that parasite surface molecules make during events such as host cell invasion or nutrient acquisition. We study how they hide from the immune system and how they manipulate human immunity. We use these insights to guide the design of improved therapeutic agents, including vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.

Under ‘who we are’ you can meet current and past members of the lab. ‘Our discoveries’ highlights some of the mysteries that we have uncovered, while ‘Parasite stories’ contains some longer reads on themes which have kept us busy for a while. At the bottom of this page, you can discover our ‘Designer Malaria Vaccines’ program as we visit science festivals to talk about our work.

We couldn't do any of this without our funders, and most of the discoveries described here were made with support from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, for which we are very grateful.

We hope that you find it interesting!

 

Designer malaria vaccines

How can we stop malaria? Why have traditional approaches to vaccine design not worked? How have new approaches provided exciting new leads?

Our Designer Malaria Vaccines exhibit, developed with Simon Draper and Sumi Biswas’ groups for the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in 2018, allows us to explore the answers to these questions with our visitors. 

If you are not able to come to one of our exhibitions perhaps check out our cartoon by clicking on the image below:

 

See if you can kill the parasites by firing antibodies at them. Click on the image below to trigger the game and then play by clicking on one of the six different antibodies before clicking on the syringe to fire them at the parasites. If you are an antibody killing ‘pro’ you can get them all in one!!

 

Or why not see how you would deploy a budget to prevent malaria across a mythical island? The people coloured red have malaria. By deploying your gold dubloons on different treatments, you can see how many you can safe. Supercharge the vaccine to convert it from the best currently available to the highly effective vaccine we are working to development. Choose specific quadrants of the map to focus your efforts on high or low transmission and high and low population areas. How many lives can you save?