BioIVT Webinar Will Discuss How Primary Hepatocytes Are Enabling Antimalarial Drug Discovery

Feb 25, 2021

Researchers at the University of Georgia used hepatocytes to develop the first medium-throughput, 384-well plate-based liver-stage antimalarial drug discovery platform

Posted by BioIVT

BioIVT, a leading provider of research models and services for drug and diagnostic development, today announced that it is hosting a webinar at 11 a.m. ET on March 4 that will describe how primary hepatocytes are being used to screen small molecule drugs for activity against the Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria.


There were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019, and an estimated 409,000 malaria deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).1 Children under five years of age are the most vulnerable, accounting for 67% of malaria deaths worldwide in 2019.1


Malaria parasites have developed resistance to many early antimalarial drugs. For example, Plasmodium falciparum exhibits multi-drug resistance to chloroquine, sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine, mefloquine, halofantrine, and quinine. Resistance to artemisinin has also recently emerged in parts of Southeast Asia.2 This ongoing issue, which dramatically impacts malaria control efforts, underscores why continuing research in this area is so important.


In humans, malaria parasites grow and multiply first in the liver cells and later in the red blood cells. It is the blood stage parasites that cause the symptoms of malaria.3


During this webinar, Dr. Steven Maher, an associate research scientist in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases Department at the University of Georgia, will outline how his team used primary human hepatocytes to develop the first medium-throughput, 384-well plate-based liver-stage antimalarial drug discovery platform. As these hepatocytes can mimic liver properties, they allow his team to evaluate the metabolism, drug-drug interaction, and toxicity of drug candidates in addition to their impact on parasite load.


Dr. Maher has a unique scientific background. He is an expert both in Plasmodium culture techniques, which are applicable throughout the parasite’s lifecycle (blood, mosquito, and liver stages), and complex hepatocyte culture models.


Dr. Maher began his drug discovery career as a Fellow in the Draper Laboratory, where microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology was developed, and later used to create a liver-on-a-chip to study malaria liver stage invasion. Using this technology, Dr. Maher’s team was able to determine the optimal conditions for culturing the liver stages of Plasmodium in primary human hepatocyte cultures. That breakthrough enabled them to develop their liver-stage antimalarial drug discovery platform, which they are now using to screen novel compounds.


“We are delighted to have this opportunity to highlight Dr. Maher’s work and his techniques for culturing Plasmodium parasites. Information like this is of great benefit to the scientific community as researchers explore new approaches to safely and effectively treat malaria and address that unmet medical need,” said Scott Heyward, Director, R&D and Scientific Affairs, BioIVT.


During his webinar, Dr. Maher will discuss the drug discovery platform, review complex and multiplex in vitro systems for primary hepatocyte culture, describe how to assess primary hepatocytes lots to determine their suitability for Plasmodium infection, and outline next steps in understanding the Plasmodium lifecycle.


Interested persons can register for this complimentary webinar, entitled “Identifying the Critical Factors Enabling a Phenotypic Screen for Small Molecule Activity Against Plasmodium Parasites Developing in Primary Human Hepatocytes,” at


BioIVT offers a broad range of products for in vitro infectious disease research. They include large lots of highly viable, consistent cryopreserved human hepatocytes, and cynomolgus and rhesus hepatocytes, which have been isolated to increase their robustness and reliability in plated assays. The increased availability of these hepatocytes helps researchers develop new drugs for hepatic infectious diseases and ADME Tox models. BioIVT’s metabolically active HEPATOPAC® cultures are also used for long-term infectious disease models because they respond very similarly to in vivo conditions. Further information about these products is available at



  1. WHO Malaria Fact Sheet. November 30, 2020. 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Drug Resistance in the Malaria-Endemic World.
  3. CDC Malaria Biology.


About BioIVT

BioIVT is a leading global provider of research models and value-added research services for drug discovery and development. We specialize in control and disease-state biospecimens including human and animal tissues, cell products, blood and other biofluids. Our unmatched portfolio of clinical specimens directly supports precision medicine research and the effort to improve patient outcomes by coupling comprehensive clinical data with donor samples. And as the premier supplier of hepatic products, including hepatocytes and subcellular fractions, BioIVT enables scientists to better understand the pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism of newly discovered compounds and their effects on disease processes. By combining our technical expertise, exceptional customer service, and unparalleled access to biological specimens, BioIVT serves the research community as a trusted partner in elevating science. For more information, please visit or follow the company on Twitter @BioIVT.

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