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Marcel Hommel is Editor-in-Chief of Malaria Journal, launched in 2002 as the first and to-date the only journal to publish exclusively on malaria, with the aim of bringing together findings across different specialities from basic research and clinical findings to fieldwork. We spoke to Hommel, who is now Emeritus Professor of Tropical Medicine at the University of Liverpool, UK, about what he thinks are the most exciting developments in malaria research and what the main barriers are to eliminating malaria.


“If you want to eliminate malaria you really want to work on the stage that transmits to the mosquito and block that stage, which was a very neglected area, and that is probably where the most exciting discoveries are happening now.”
Marcel Hommel, University of Liverpool


Following his medical degree in France and PhD from the University of Liverpool, UK, Hommel went on to carry out research at several notable institutes, including the National Institute for Medical Research, UK, Harvard Medical School, USA, and the Institut Pasteur, France, where he served as Medical Director. Seminal contributions of his work in the field of malaria immunology and pathophysiology include the significance of parasite diversity on the development of immunity and the first description of antigenic variation in Plasmodium falciparum.


“We discovered antigenic variation, which is now a very big area in malaria. […] It was really by accident because we were looking for something completely different.”
Marcel Hommel, University of Liverpool


He recalls: “We were just doing some basic biology. We discovered there was something on the surface of infected rat cells which made them stick to cells, which had a parasite antigen on the surface of the host cell. That completely opened up the field because nobody actually knew that.”

Hommel continues to promote the importance of making malaria research Open Access so that countries most affected by the disease can drive forward efforts to combat it. In 2012, Malaria Journal itself was responsible for publishing the largest share of research articles on malaria.

“The majority of articles on malaria are now in Open Access journals. Out of 300 or so papers published in 2011 [in Malaria Journal], 105 were African first authors. This is very important,” remarks Hommel.

For more on the latest developments in malaria research take a look at the Challenges in Malaria Research conference, hosted by BioMed Central in conjunction with its journals Malaria Journal and Parasites & Vectors.


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