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Press Release:


FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Receives Funding to Find Malaria Cure from Marine Microbes

FORT PIERCE, FL (April 3, 2012) – Peter McCarthy, Ph.D., a marine microbiologist and research professor in Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, and Debopam Chakrabarti, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and microbiology at the University of Central Florida, have been awarded a $410,000, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify marine microorganisms that can be used to combat malaria.

“Half the world’s population lives in areas where conditions are favorable for malaria’s spread,” said McCarthy.  “The importance of research like this cannot be underestimated.”

Malaria infects about 250 million people annually, resulting in more than 1 million deaths.  The malaria parasite, which is mosquito-borne and transmitted, is exceedingly adept at mutating and staying a step ahead of researchers’ efforts to find preventatives and cures.  

Previous research by Chakrabarti and HBOI researcher Amy Wright, Ph.D. to find antimalarial agents from marine sponges led to the discovery of compounds that curb or kill malaria parasites. This new project will allow McCarthy and Chakrabarti to expand this research to the realm of marine bacteria and fungi.

“We are very excited about the potential for the discovery of antimalarial agents,” said McCarthy.

Preliminary testing of 200 samples has already identified promising leads that have antimalarial activity.  The new grant will focus on testing the compounds produced by 1,000 microorganisms to identify leads for further research.

This project was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health through Grant Number 1R21AI100280-01.

For more information, contact Peter McCarthy, Ph.D., at 772-242-2632 or



About Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute :
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research institute dedicated to exploration, innovation, conservation and education related to the oceans.  Harbor Branch was founded in 1971 as a private non-profit organization. In December 2007, Harbor Branch joined Florida Atlantic University. The institute specializes in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, and marine education. For more information, visit .

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit

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