© Crédit Joana Santos 2019

Joana SantosInstitut de la Biologie Intégrative (I2BC), CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay, CEA

My goal is to understand how the malaria parasite regulates its gene expression

Mes recherches

My name is Joana and I am Portuguese. After obtaining a bachelor degree in Microbiology and Genetics in 2005 from the University of Lisbon, I moved to the US for a year to do an internship in the lab of Dr Photini Sinnis on the rodent malaria parasite. It was this first lab experience that got me interested in parasites. In 2006, I moved to Geneva, Switzerland, to the lab of Dr Dominique Soldati-Favre to do my PhD. After defending my thesis, in 2010, I moved back to the US, this time to the lab of Dr Manuel Llinás, to do a first postdoc focused on the human malaria parasite. In 2017, I decided to move back to Europe and, specifically, to France. From 2017 to 2019, I worked in B cell regulation in the lab of Dr Ahmed Amine Khamlichi at the IPBS, in Toulouse. In 2019, I was awarded an ATIP-Avenir grant that allowed me to establish my own lab at the I2BC, at Gif-sur-Yvette. I have been working at the I2BC since January 2020. In October 2021, I obtained a permanent researcher position at the CNRS.

Mon projet ATIP-Avenir


The human malaria parasite can follow two fates within the bloodstream; either continuously invade erythrocytes or differentiate into the sexual forms (gametocytes). Gametocytes can then be taken up by a mosquito, which can transmit the disease to a new host. Parasites committed to one or the other pathway are morphologically identical but transcriptionally distinct.
I will first identify the transcription factors regulating expression of proteins triggering gametocyte formation and use live imaging to examine the commitment clock. Subsequently, I will identify the transcription factor driving expression of Plasmodium-specific invasion genes. Finally, I will characterize at the functional and structural levels, an essential transcriptional complex I previously identified in P. falciparum and target its inhibition.
This work will shed light upon parasite commitment and gene expression, while also focusing on the discovery of potential new drug targets and chemical inhibitors. This is vital because drug-resistant parasites are spreading and there is no alternative to the current antimalarials.