Malaria Research Centre
The Malaria Research Centre (MRC) was established as one of the two Centres of Excellence by UNIMAS in January 2006. This was in recognition of the major contributions to malaria research by Prof Balbir Singh, Prof Janet Cox-Singh and co-researchers at the Malaria Research Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. These two scientists joined UNIMAS in 1999 to establish laboratory-based research in the new Medical Faculty and with financial support from UNIMAS, they were instrumental in designing and equipping state-of-the-art research laboratories. The acquisition of research grants from Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom, the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment and UNIMAS, enabled them to train young scientists and establish an active group of researchers working on malaria.
The research undertaken at the MRC utilises molecular tools to study in detail the epidemiology, clinical features and population genetics of malaria parasites in this region. A landmark discovery by scientists working at the MRC was of a large focus in Sarawak of human infections with Plasmodium knowlesi, a parasite normally found in long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques. The MRC research team subsequently made several other key discoveries which have highlighted knowlesi malaria as a significant, life-threatening zoonotic disease that is prevalent throughout Southeast Asia. This work, that a highly pathogenic malaria parasite from monkeys is infecting humans and is the fifth cause of human malaria, has radically changed our understanding of malaria. We are continuing to use molecular tools to study genetic diversity and transmission of knowlesi malaria.
The MRC comprises senior scientists, postgraduates, and research assistants from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, working in close collaboration with colleagues from the Sarawak Health Department and scientists from overseas institutions in UK and the USA. We are expanding and continuously looking for highly motivated postgraduates to join the MRC.
Emanuel Wolinsky Award presented in 2009 by the Infectious Diseases Society of America for the paper in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) by Cox-Singh et al. entitled ‘Plasmodium knowlesi malaria in humans is widely distributed and potentially life threatening’ . It was adjudged by editors of CID as the best original clinical research paper published in CID for the year 2008.
Prof Dr Balbir Singh was awarded the ProMED Award in Emerging Infectious Diseases at the 8th International Congress on Infectious Dieseases XVIII Congreso SADI 2018, in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Research Featured on TV
Our research on Plasmodium knowlesi malaria was featured in a Television Documentary entitled Monkey Malaria, aired by Australian Broadcasting Corp on 2nd April 2009. This documentary won the award for the Best Documentary in the field of Health & Health Sciences at the 2009 Excellence in Health Journalism Awards run by the National Press Club of Australia.
Prof Balbir's research was featured in an Al Jazeera news story on knowlesi malaria, which was broadcast on television Entitled Fears over 'monkey malaria' leap to human (video on right), in conjunction with Malaria day 2014.