Dr. Laura Kirkman, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Microbiology

Project Overview

The Brockman Foundation has provided funding toward the discovery and development of novel compounds to treat multidrug resistant malaria. Research focuses on investigating drugs that target the malaria parasite’s ability to survive cellular stress and to provide malaria treatment alternatives in the face of growing malaria parasite drug resistance.

The project is being led by Dr. Laura Kirkman, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Cornell Medical School. Dr. Kirkman is a physician scientist whose research focus has been on bloodborne parasitic diseases, malaria and babesiosis.

Malaria is a vector-borne disease that is endemic to most tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Malaria results from the infection of the human host by the protozoan parasite, Plasmodium, which is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. In 2017, there were approximately 220 million people suffering from malarial infection worldwide, which resulted in about 435,000 deaths.

The history of malaria control is one of vicious cycles of widespread deployment of effective treatments followed by the development of drug resistance and clinical failure with those same treatments. The team at Weill Cornell discovered a novel class of compounds that target the parasite proteasome and are highly active against the malaria parasite.

The work supported by the Brockman Foundation aims to further develop these compounds and provide a scientific basis to design and implement optimal combination therapy with the goal of forestalling the development of resistance and prolonging the effectiveness of current first line therapies.

Dr. Laura Kirkman received a BA in biology from Swarthmore College, and an M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she was recognized with distinction in research and where she was also a Howard Hughes Medical Student Research Fellow. She undertook her residency in internal medicine at Yale Medical School and Yale New Haven Hospital, and subspecialty fellowship training in infectious diseases at New York Presbyterian-Cornell Hospital System.

Dr. Kirkman and her team are working to identify novel approaches to combat treatment failures and the development antibiotic resistance. She has been the recipient of various teaching awards as well as the William Randolph Hearst Clinical Scholar Award. Additionally, Dr. Kirkman maintains clinical practice in Infectious Diseases where her focus is on the treatment of persistent and difficult to treat infections.

Project Highlights

  • Overview: Malaria treatment alternatives