How Promega Helped Our Lab Scale Up Drug Discovery for Bloodborne Pathogens

This blog was written by Sebastien Smick, Research Technician in Dr. Jacquin Niles’ laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Our lab is heavily focused on the basic biology and drug discovery of the human bloodborne pathogen Plasmodium falciparum, which causes malaria. We use the CRISPR/Cas9 system, paired with a TetR protein fused to a native translational repressor alongside a Renilla luciferase reporter gene, to conditionally knock down genes of interest to create modified parasites. We can then test all kinds of compounds as potential drug scaffolds against these gene-edited parasites. Our most recent endeavor, one made possible by Promega, is a medium-low throughput robotic screening pipeline which compares conditionally-activated or-repressed parasites against our dose-response drug libraries in a 384-well format. This process has been developed over the past few years and is a major upgrade for our lab in terms of data production. Our researchers are working very hard to generate new modified parasites to test. Our robots and plate readers rarely get a day’s rest!

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Using Laser Treatment to Eliminate Blood-Borne Pathogens

One unit of fresh frozen plasma By DiverDave (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Keeping our blood supply safe is increasingly difficult in the face of newly discovered pathogens that can be transmitted via blood. The tests developed to ensure the blood is free of pathogens like HIV and HBV are based on known pathogens and available screening tests. What about an emerging virus? How can we ensure our blood is safe in the face of the virus we know nothing about? The PLOS ONE article by Tsen et al. explored how a nonchemical treatment using ultrashort pulsed lasers might be used to eliminate viruses from blood plasma.

The authors used ultrashort pulsed (USP) lasers in their research as this treatment is known to inactivate a spectrum of bacteria and viruses including nonenveloped viruses, a class of virus that resists inactivation. Furthermore, the laser treatment is nonionizing and does not modify proteins covalently, meaning that proteins present in blood are likely to remain active even after exposure to USP lasers. The viruses that were tested for inactivation by USP laser in human plasma were an enveloped RNA virus human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), nonenveloped RNA virus hepatitis A virus (HAV) and enveloped DNA virus murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). Continue reading “Using Laser Treatment to Eliminate Blood-Borne Pathogens”