Introducing the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology

Introducing the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology

There is a long history of parasitology in Glasgow, with some of the most significant discoveries made by scientists trained by, or based at, the University of Glasgow. The involvement of Wellcome in parasitology research in Glasgow is also long standing.

In 1987, the Wellcome Unit of Molecular Parasitology was established, representing not only the excellence of this research in Glasgow, but also the first UK-based collective that Wellcome had funded.  The Unit transitioned to a Centre in 1999 and has enjoyed successful growth and evolution of activities and goals.  The success of the Centre has been the result of excellent basic biological research on the (largely protozoan) parasites that cause diseases such as malaria and sleeping sickness in tropical regions.

Our Centre funding was renewed in 2014 for 7 years and we are now part of a wider group of 14 Wellcome Centres. This renewal also saw an expansion of our public engagement activities, greater interactions in low and middle income (LMIC) regions, and involvement in the Wellcome Liverpool Glasgow Centre for Global Health Research (WLGCGHR). All reflecting our leadership role in driving a Scottish (and wider) agenda in Global Health Research. We have focused on discovery research into parasite biology and host/parasite/vector interactions with a broadened portfolio of pathogens and technologies.

However, as a Centre, we are continuing to develop and broaden. The number of research groups has increased from 9 to 15 and we have new programmes examining immunity to helminths (this includes parasitic worms such as schistosomes). Technologically we have expanded. We have created a national metabolomics facility, enhanced our imaging capabilities, and have expanded our work in drug discovery.

Recent engagement and collaborations in Malawi has been particularly fruitful, and we are currently establishing a molecular diagnostics facility in partnership with the College of Medicine in Blantyre with significant funding from the Scottish Government. This facility represents the first step in a partnership programme that seeks to establish the Blantyre-Blantyre (B2B) centre for the study of multimorbidity.  B2B will examine the interface between infectious disease and existing (and burgeoning) African non-communicable disease profiting from the Glasgow experience.  We aim to develop a model of investigation and therapy development that will ultimately benefit both African and UK populations. 

These recent developments have significantly shaped our research agenda as we integrate and foster the engagement of additional and wide-ranging expertise into our programmes as part of an aspiring global health agenda.  As we make this realignment, we have renamed the Centre, Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology, and look forward to an expanded research portfolio and new global partnerships and collaborations.

Retreat 2018