Julian Rayner

Big malaria news recently - identification of the gene responsible for the most dangerous form of parasite drug resistance. Will it help elimination? Let's see...

Favourite Thing: I find the basic biology of malaria parasites fascinating – how does a single cell manage to exist in so many different places (in our livers and in our blood, in mosquitoes guts and in their salivary glands), and not just to exist, but to be incredibly successful at it. Dreaming up experiments to answer those questions, and then seeing the data as it appears, learning things that noone else knows, is a huge thrill and privilege.



Cashmere High School, Christchurch, New Zealand. 1983-88.


Undergrad – Lincoln University, New Zealand, 1989-92. Postgrad – Cambridge, England. 1993-1997.

Work History:

Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, USA for four years. CDC is the US public health institute, very interesting place to work. Then started my own research group at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and was there 2002 – 2008.



Area of Research:

Malaria parasites and their interactions with human red blood cells

Find out more:

Me and my work

I try to understand how malaria parasites recognise and invade human red blood cells, in order to develop new ways to block invasion and treat malaria, which kills more than a million children every year.

My Typical Day

Varied – from digging through e-mail, to writing papers, to attending meetings, to looking at the latest data, to flying to conferences or malaria endemic countries. Never dull.

Genome sequencing and my research

The genome sequence of malaria parasites is essential for my research because it basically gives us the complete target list – the list of all genes we could try to develop drugs or vaccines against.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Passionately seeking a cure. Whoops, that’s four.

What music do you have on your iPod?

Hard to describe the mix. Most recent uploads – Maroon 5, John Lennon, Arctic Monkeys.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

After my PhD I island hopped around Greece for three months. After working insanely hard in the lab, it was just a wonderful relaxing break.

What do you like to do away from work?

Anything to do with mountains – climbing, walking, camping, skiing.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist. Geeky, but true.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Gavin Wright and I recently identified a protein that we think is essential for malaria parasites to invade human red blood cells. It could still all fall apart (things in science often do), but we are really excited about this as a vaccine target.

Tell us a joke.

My son just told me this one this morning – Q: What did the peanut say to the police officer? A: Help, I’ve been a-salted.