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An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge


Chair of Cell Biology in the School of Clinical Medicine.

Director of the Cambridge Institute of Medical Research (CIMR)

Malaria and Drug Discovery 

Professor Julian Rayner, whose research at the Wellcome Sanger Institute has made significant contributions to our understanding of malaria parasites, took over as Director of the Cambridge Institute of Medical Research (CIMR) on 1 May 2019.

The CIMR is one of the flagship non-clinical research facilities on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. It brings together clinicians and non-clinical researchers in a mutually productive partnership, using cell biology to understand the cellular basis of disease, and studying genetic disease to reveal crucial mechanisms of cell biology.

Julian’s research helps to identify new malaria drug and vaccine targets by investigating the interactions between Plasmodium parasites – the organism that causes malaria – and human red blood cells. After undergraduate education in New Zealand and a PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, he began working on malaria cell biology as a postdoctoral fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, followed by his first faculty position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Since 2008 he has been a Group Leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, during which time he and collaborators have identified an essential protein complex involved in the invasion of red blood cells by malaria parasites. This is now in early stage human vaccine testing. They have also traced the origins of human malaria parasites in African apes, and carried out the first ever genome-scale genetic screenings in Plasmodium parasites, helping to identify new targets for drug development.

At the Sanger Institute, Julian was Director of Graduate Studies from 2012 to 2014 and since 2014 has been Director of Wellcome Genome Campus Connecting Science, a multidisciplinary training and engagement programme which aims to enable everyone to explore genomics and its impact on research, health and society. He is strongly committed to public engagement and will maintain his role with Connecting Science while at CIMR, helping to forge even stronger links between the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Genome Campus.

Key Projects, Countries, and Partners

Kenya - multiple collaborations with researchers at KEMRI-Wellcome, including Dr. Tom Williams, Dr. Philip Bejon, Dr. Isabella Ocholla and Dr. Abdi Abdirahman, on host-parasite interactions during Plasmodium falciparum blood stages. 

Ghana - collaboration with Prof. Gordon Awandare at University of Ghana, focussed on learning and training in malaria cell biology, and understanding natural variation in erythrocyte invasion pathways. 

Colombia - collaboration with Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota, focussed on Plasmodium falciparum malaria on the Pacific Coast of Colombia, an area of high health inequality and where P. falciparum is the dominant malaria parasite species.

Director, Wellcome Genome Campus Connecting Science


Cambridge Institute of Medical Research (CIMR)/Department of Medicine
High throughput approaches to understand the biology of malaria parasites and prioritise new drug and vaccine targets
Professor  Julian   Rayner
Not available for consultancy


Person keywords: 
Host-Pathogen Interaction
Vaccine development
Cross-species transmission
Drug Discovery