PennVet | Dr. Boris Striepen receives $1.8M Gates Foundation grant and prestigious William Trager Award
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Dr. Boris Striepen receives $1.8M Gates Foundation grant and prestigious William Trager Award

By: Martin J. Hackett Published: Mar 22, 2018

Dr. Boris Striepen photographed by Andrew TuckerDr. Boris Striepen, Professor of Pathobiology at Penn Vet, received a $1.8-million, threeyear grant in January from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to enable the development of drugs for cryptosporidiosis, a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites. Additionally, last November, Striepen was presented with the American Committee of Molecular, Cellular and Immunoparasitology’s prestigious William Trager Award for Basic Parasitology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cryptosporidiosis sickens approximately 750,000 people each year in the United States. Caused by Cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite that is typically transmitted through contaminated water, the disease is the second leading cause of severe diarrhea in small children. Globally, diarrheal diseases claim the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five annually.

Striepen is a leader in the study of Cryptosporidium. Under the grant, he and his team will use a variety of molecular genetic approaches to support drug development efforts, focusing on the identification and validation of therapeutic targets to guide medicinal chemistry. The project will build upon the team’s breakthrough in establishing techniques for genetic manipulation of Cryptosporidium to produce parasites suitable for drug testing in vitro and in vivo. Striepen will seek to link drug candidates with their targets within the parasite. Understanding how drugs work is very helpful to further enhance their potency and to anticipate and avoid unwanted toxicity and side effects.

“We will develop rigorous tests to establish whether drug candidates truly act on the target they were designed to,” Striepen said. “We will establish how the metabolism of the parasite interacts with that of its human host cell and assemble a catalog of those functions that are essential to the survival of the parasite and thus good targets for intervention.”

Last fall, Striepen received the William Trager Award at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. Named in honor of malaria research pioneer Dr. William Trager, the annual award recognizes scientists who have made a fundamental breakthrough in basic parasitology that allows for new areas of investigation.

Striepen joined Penn Vet’s faculty in July 2017. His research program is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Wellcome Trust.

“It is professors like Dr. Striepen who continue to make Penn Vet a leader in biomedical research that has a profound impact on human lives,” said Dr. Christopher A. Hunter, the Mindy Halikman Heyer Distinguished Professor of Pathobiology and Chairman of the Department of Pathobiology at Penn Vet. “He is a highly innovative scientist who is making significant contributions within the microbiology community here at Penn.”