Christina Spry completed a Bachelor of Science with first class Honours at The Australian National University in 2004 and graduated with a University Medal. Her Honours project, which was undertaken under the supervision of Dr Kevin Saliba and Professor Kiaran Kirk (Research School of Biology) and Dr Christina Chai (Research School of Chemistry), entailed synthesising pantothenate (vitamin B5) analogues and investigating the activity of the analogues against malaria parasites. This work was published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
After completing Honours, Christina remained interested in pantothenate analogues as potential antimalarial chemotherapies. She therefore began a PhD, under the supervision of Dr Saliba and Professor Kirk, investigating pantothenate utilisation by human malaria parasites. During her PhD, Christina discovered that human malaria parasites synthesise the essential enzyme cofactor coenzyme A from pantothenate, and, unlike avian malaria parasites, are not dependent on host red blood cells for this cofactor (published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry). Additionally, Christina published a review on the potential of coenzyme A biosynthesis as an antimicrobial drug target in FEMS Microbiology Reviews and contributed to a study of the mechanism of action of the antiplasmodial pantothenate analogue pantothenol (published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry). The award for Christina’s PhD was approved in December 2009 and she is employed as a postdoc in Dr Saliba’s laboratory.
The ASBMB Fellowship will enable Christina to travel to Associate Professor Erick Strauss’ laboratory (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) where she will learn techniques for studying the mode of action of pantothenate analogues.