Christopher V. Plowe, M.D., M.P.H.

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Christopher V. Plowe, M.D., M.P.H.

Chris Plowe is a physician and malariologist who leads a multidisciplinary clinical translational malaria research at the University of Maryland’s Center for Vaccine Development, with field sites in Mali, West Africa and Malawi, Central Africa. He is best known for his work on the molecular epidemiology of drug resistant malaria. Working with African colleagues, his group at the University of Maryland developed rapid molecular assays to detect drug resistant malaria using dried blood spots on paper. These tests have been used to understand the population genetics of malaria and to control malaria outbreaks and inform treatment policy decisions. Dr. Plowe’s work encompasses malaria drug resistance, molecular epidemiology, molecular evolution, rapid diagnostics, pathogenesis, immunology, international research ethics, interactions between HIV and malaria, and clinical trials of drugs and vaccines. His group is currently concentrating on understanding and mitigating the impact of genetic diversity on malaria vaccine efficacy and on developing strategies to deter the emergence and spread of drug resistant malaria.

Dr. Plowe was born and raised in South Dakota, the second of six children of a clergyman/farmer and a Vassar-educated housewife. He is a tenured Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Malaria Section in the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. He received a BA in Philosophy from Cornell University in 1982, an MD from Cornell in 1986, and an MPH in Tropical Medicine from Columbia University in 1991. After training in malaria research at the National Institutes of Health and in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University he joined the University of Maryland faculty in 1995. He was awarded the Ashford Medal for distinguished work in tropical medicine from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2002 and was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2005. He provides expert advice on malaria research and control to national and international agencies and has testified before Congress on tropical medicine research priorities and before a Presidential commission on international research ethics. He divides his time between his laboratories in Baltimore, the Bandiagara Malaria Project in Mali and the Blantyre Malaria Project in Malawi. He enjoys playing music with his children and riding motorcycles with his wife.

Abstract

Antigenic Diversity and Malaria Vaccine Efficacy

"Malaria parasites mutate and evolve so quickly that drugs and vaccines are always chasing a moving target," says Dr. Chris Plowe, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Center for Vaccine Development's Malaria Section at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Plowe's project, "Genetic Diversity and Malaria Vaccine Efficacy", will combine molecular studies in the Center for Vaccine Development with clinical trials in Mali, West Africa, to understand how malaria parasites evolve to evade attack from the human immune system. Plowe's team at the University of Maryland and colleagues at the University of Bamako in Mali hope that learning how the malaria parasite genome is shaped by both natural and vaccine-induced immunity will lead to a vaccine that protects people against genetically diverse malaria parasites.

"This award will help us exploit the amazing advances in malaria genomics to improve a malaria vaccine we are testing now in Mali," says Plowe. "It's as if malaria parasites can change their coats so that they aren't recognized. We need to beat the parasite at its own game by making a vaccine that helps the body's defenses recognizes malaria parasites whether they are wearing a red parka or a blue blazer."

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