Odom Lab Research

There is an urgent need for new drugs to treat malaria, which causes over a million deaths per year, mostly in young children. Our lab focuses on improving the fundamental understanding of the basic molecular and cellular biology of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in order to identify new antimalarial drug targets. We are particularly interested in the non-mevalonate pathway (MEP) pathway of isoprenoid biosynthesis in P. falciparum. This pathway is required for malaria parasite growth, but not present in humans. This non-mevalonate isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway is also shared by several additional important global pathogens, most notably Mycobacterium tuberculosis and all Gram negative bacteria. Novel agents that target this pathway therefore hold great promise to deliver broad-spectrum antibacterial, antituberculous, and antimalarial activity while limiting pharmaceutical side effects. Isoprenoids are a very diverse class of biomolecules with numerous functions within the cell, including co-factors, electron transport, and signaling molecules. We have genetically and chemically validated isoprenoid biosynthesis as absolutely essential to malaria parasite growth. The Odom lab studies the developmental effects of isoprenoid blockade, and is working to understand why isoprenoids are important to Plasmodia development. In addition, we have recently launched an international collaborative effort to identify new inhibitors of one of the enzymes of this pathway. Our lab is part of the Pathobiology Research Unit in the Department of Pediatrics. We are located on the 6th floor of the McDonnell Pediatric Research Building.