Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2013

Thesis Advisor(s)

Peter Burkhard

Honors Major

Structural Biology/Biophysics


Biological and Chemical Physics


Malaria is an infectious disease that affects several million individuals worldwide and is a significant international public health issue. While there is currently a malaria vaccine in phase III clinical trials, recent results demonstrate that it is only about 35% effective in reducing the incidence of the disease. The use of self-assembling protein nanoparticles (SAPNs) that display epitopes of the repeat sequence of the circumsporozoite protein of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria, has been shown to elicit a strong immune response. This prototype has potential for further improvement by altering the epitope regions of the nanoparticles to be more compatible with humans and by modifying the nanoparticle backbone to be more soluble and compact. It was predicted and demonstrated, through dynamic light scattering and transmission electron microscopy imaging, that these slight changes to the nanoparticle construct could result in increased stability and immunogenicity for this promising malaria vaccine.