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The Australian National University

Kirk Lab - Malaria parasite biology

Teaching | Research | Research opportunities | Lab members | Lab awards | Publications | Grants

Professor Kiaran Kirk

Building 46,
Research School of Biology,
The Australian National University,
Acton, ACT 0200
T: 61253841


Kiaran Kirk carried out his PhD in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Sydney (1985-1988). In 1989 he went to the Oxford University Laboratory of Physiology where he held an Oxford Nuffield Medical Fellowship, the Staines Medical Research Fellowship (Exeter College) and a Lister Institute Senior Research Fellowship. He returned to Australia in 1996 to head the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the ANU Faculty of Science, holding this post until taking up his present position as Director of the newly-created ANU Research School of Biology in June 2009.  In April 2014 Kiaran will step down from his current role to take up the position of Dean of the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment.



  • BIOL1004: Molecular Biology (Lecturer)
  • BIOL2174: Cell Physiology in Health & Disease (Lecturer)
  • BIOL3174/5 Research Projects, PhB Advanced Study Courses (Supervisor)

Teaching awards

  • ANU Vice-Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research Supervision, 2007
  • ANU Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, 2008
  • Australian Teaching and Learning Council Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, 2009
  • The ANU 'Last Lecture', 2013  <>

Research interests

  • The physiology and biochemistry of the malaria parasite
  • Mechanisms of drug action and drug resistance in the malaria parasite

Current projects

Ion regulation in the malaria parasite

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Drug resistance and drug susceptibility in the malaria parasite

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Metabolism and metabolomics of the malaria parasite

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Student research opportunities

Kiaran is not presently taking additional students.        Show more detail...

Lab members

  • Richard Allen (Postdoctoral Scientist)
  • Adelaide Dennis (PhD student)
  • Sanduni Hapuarachchi (Honours Student)
  • Kiaran Kirk (Lab Leader)
  • Adele Lehane (Postdoctoral Scientist)
  • Margaret Mackinnon (Visiting Fellow)
  • Rosa Marchetti (PhD student)
  • Kathryn Parker (PhD student)
  • Esther Rajendran (PhD student)
  • Melanie Ridgway (Honours Student)
  • Markus Winterberg (Postdoctoral Scientist)

» Go to lab directory

Past members

Lab awards and achievements

  • Bancroft-Mackerras Medal of the Australian Society for Parasitology (2008)
  • Roche Medal of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2002)
Student and early-career researcher awards


Selected publications

  • Spillman, N.J., Allen, R.J.W., McNamara, C.W., Yeung, B.K.S., Winzeler, E.A., Diagana, T.T. and Kirk, K. (2013) Na+ regulation in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum involves the cation ATPase PfATP4 and is a target of the spiroindolone antimalarials. Cell Host & Microbe 13, 227-237
  • Winterberg, M., Rajendran, E., Baumeister, S., Bietz, S., Kirk, K. and Lingelbach K. (2012) Chemical activation of a high-affinity glutamate transporter in human erythrocytes and its implications for malaria-parasite-induced glutamate uptake. Blood, 119, 3604-3612
  • Martin, R.E., Marchetti, R.V., Cowan, A.I., Howitt, S.M., Bröer, S. and Kirk, K. (2009) Chloroquine transport via the malaria parasite’s ‘Chloroquine Resistance Transporter’. Science, 325, 1680-1682
  • Dean, S., Marchetti, R., Kirk, K. and Matthews, K.R. (2009) A surface transporter family conveys the differentiation signal in African trypanosomes. Nature, 459, 213-217
  • Lehane, A.M., Hayward, R., Saliba K.J. and Kirk, K. (2008) A verapamil-sensitive chloroquine-associated H+ leak from the digestive vacuole in chloroquine-resistant malaria parasites. J. Cell Sci. 121, 1624-1632
  • Martin, R.E. and Kirk, K. (2007) Transport of the essential nutrient isoleucine in human erythrocytes infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Blood 109, 2219-2226
  • Salibaa, K.J., Martina, R.E., Bröer, A., Henry, R.I., McCarthy, C.S., Downie, M.J., Allen, R.J.W., Mullin, K.A., McFadden, G.I., Bröerb, S. and Kirkb, K. (2006) Sodium-dependent uptake of inorganic phosphate by the intracellular malaria parasite. Nature 443, 582-585 [a,b Equal contributions]
  • Martin, R.E., Henry, R.I., Abbey, J.L., Clements, J.D, and Kirk, K. (2005) The 'permeome' of the malaria parasite: an overview of the membrane transport proteins of Plasmodium falciparum. Genome Biol. 6, R26
  • Martin, R.E. and Kirk, K. (2004) The malaria parasite’s chloroquine resistance transporter is a member of the drug/metabolite transporter superfamily. Mol. Biol. Evol. 21, 1938–1949
  • Allen, R.J.W. and Kirk, K. (2004) The membrane potential of the intraerythrocytic malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. J. Biol. Chem., 279, 11264-11272
  • Kirk, K. (2001) Membrane transport in the malaria-infected erythrocyte. Physiol. Rev. 81, 495-537
  • Reed, M.B., Saliba, K.J., Caruana, S.R., Kirk, K. and Cowman, A.F. (2000) Pgh1 modulates sensitivity and resistance to multiple antimalarials in Plasmodium falciparum. Nature 403, 906-909

All publications

Click here to see a full list of publications on the ISI website...

Recent grants

  • NH&MRC Project Grant (1042272): Kirk, K. (2013-2015) Targeting an ion pump in the malaria parasite with multiple compound classes
  • Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV): Kirk, K. (2012-2013) Testing the MMV Malaria Box on malaria parasite ion regulation
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (585473): Saliba, K.J., Kirk, K., Tilley, L., Maier, A. (2010-2012) The Na+/H+ exchanger and H+-pumping pyrophosphatases of the malaria parasite
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (525428): Kirk, K. (2009-2011) Transport of amino acids and polyamines in the malaria parasite
  • GO8/DAAD Australia Germany Joint Research Co-operation Scheme: Kirk, K. (2008-2009) Molecular identification of novel permeation pathways induced by malaria parasites
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (418055): Kirk, K. (2007-2009)  Chloroquine resistance and the physiology of the malaria parasite’s digestive vacuole
  • ARC Discovery Grant (DP0771754): Kirk, K. and Saliba, K.J. (2007-2009) Ion transport in the malaria parasite and parasitised erythrocyte
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (316933): Kirk, K. (2005-2007) Metabolomic analysis and membrane transport proteins in the malaria parasite
  • ARC Discovery Grant (DP0559433): Kirk, K., Howitt, S.M. and Bröer, S. (2005-2007) Amino acid transporters and the chloroquine resistance transporter of the intracellular malaria parasite

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Updated:  21 December 2010/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB /Page Contact:  RSB Webmaster