Seattle Malaria Clinical Trials Center

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that affects millions of people worldwide with about 1,500 cases diagnosed in the US each year. It is caused when infected mosquitos feed on human blood and transmit the malaria parasite.

The Seattle Malaria Clinical Trials Center (Seattle MCTC) conducts a variety of studies to investigate, treat, and prevent malaria infection in people. You can help in our efforts to prevent malaria.

Healthy volunteers are key to our success. Many past volunteers have enjoyed the trial experience and even return to participate a second time.

graphic of malaria development
1) Infection is transmitted to human when a mosquito injects sporozoites via bite. 2) Sporozoites enter the liver and infect hepatocytes (liver cells). 3) Liver cells rupture, and merozoites are released into the bloodstream. 4) Merozoites produce gametocytes. 5) Transmission to mosquito (ingests gametocytes via bite). Jim Woolace / Fred Hutch

What is Malaria?

Malaria is caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito that feeds on humans. People with malaria typically get very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu‐like illness. Five kinds of malaria parasites can infect humans. One type, P. falciparum, can be fatal if it is not treated promptly. Despite its seriousness, malaria can usually be prevented with medication and mosquito-control measures. Plus it is easily treated.

The World Health Organization reports that about 3.2 billion people — almost half the world’s population — are at risk of malaria. Recent estimates show there were 214 million cases of malaria in 2015 and 438,000 deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases are in travelers and immigrants returning from malaria‐risk areas like sub‐Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Young children, pregnant women and non-immune travelers from malaria-free areas are particularly vulnerable to the disease if they are infected. Because it causes so much illness and death, malaria is a great drain on many national economies. Since many countries with malaria are already among the poorer nations, the disease perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty.

Join One of Our Studies

Safety is Top Priority

Safety is of utmost importance in the design of our facilities and the conduct of Seattle MCTC clinical trials. The Seattle MCTC provides the highest level of care to ensure the safety of volunteers.

We worked closely with our colleagues at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in establishing the Seattle MCTC to harness their significant expertise in conducting these types of studies. WRAIR is home to the only other U.S. facility conducting malaria challenge trials and they have an outstanding safety record over the last two decades.

The laboratory-raised strains of malaria used in these trials are well understood by our scientists and easily killed by common, FDA-approved malaria medications. Our experimental strains have been used many times in similar malaria clinical trials without causing severe illness in volunteers. Volunteers are closely monitored to ensure safety throughout the trial and are treated with anti-malarial medication at the first sign of malaria infection in the blood.

All malaria clinical trial proposals are reviewed and approved by an independent Institutional Review Board (IRB), whose primary purpose is to assure the protection of the rights, safety and welfare of human subjects. All studies of investigational drug and biologics (vaccines) must also be reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety before they can be initiated at a center such as ours.

Our Leadership

James Kublin, MD, PhD

James Kublin, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Kublin is medical director of the Seattle Malaria Clinical Trials Center and a faculty member in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. He is also executive director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network based at Fred Hutch.

One of the world’s foremost experts on infectious diseases, Dr. Kublin has conducted extensive research on HIV and malaria in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa, including clinical trials of novel therapies and vaccines.

Before moving to Seattle, he was director, HIV Vaccines – Infectious Diseases, for Merck & Co., Inc., where he played a key role in the development and implementation of HIV vaccine studies.

Dr. Kublin completed his B.S. and M.D. at Georgetown University, and received his M.P.H. and completed a residency in Preventive Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. He worked in vaccine development and molecular epidemiology while attending the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine for his fellowship in Vaccinology at the Center for Vaccine Development.

Sean Murphy, MD, PhD

Sean Murphy, MD, PhD

Dr. Murphy is a clinical investigator at the Seattle Malarial Clinical Trials center and medical director of the Human Challenge Center at the Center for Infectious Disease Research. He is also an assistant professor in Laboratory Medicine and assistant director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at the University of Washington.

Dr. Murphy has been studying malaria since 1998. His major research focus includes diagnostics and vaccine immunology.

He and his team develop molecular diagnostic tests that detect malaria in human blood three to four days earlier than by conventional blood smears. They also aim to identify malaria proteins that raise protective immune responses against the disease. A third focus is on creating experimental vaccines that could target malaria before it infects human blood cells and causes serious illness. Such vaccines could pave the way for the ultimate eradication of malaria.

Dr. Murphy completed his medical and graduate training through the M.D./Ph.D. program at Northwestern University He completed a residency in Clinical Pathology at the University of Washington and is board-certified by the American Board of Pathology.

A Collaborative Partnership

In October 2015, the Seattle Children's Research Institute and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center joined forces to jointly establish the Seattle Malaria Clinical Trials Center (Seattle MCTC). With the common goal of preventing malaria worldwide, the partnership advances research into novel interventions against the deadly malaria parasite.

Fred Hutch

The Seattle Malaria Clinical Trials Center, based at Fred Hutch, is one of only four centers in the world capable of testing malaria vaccines or drug candidates in human clinical trials by the well-established malaria human challenge model.

A world leader in cancer and infectious-disease research, the Hutch is uniquely positioned to address malaria by translating four decades of scientific exploration into new prevention and treatment strategies. We also have extensive experience in vaccine development and public health studies. Our researchers lead the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, the world’s largest publicly funded multi-disciplinary international collaboration facilitating the development of vaccines to prevent HIV/AIDS.

Human Challenge Center (HCC)

Located within the Seattle Children's Research Institute, the Human Challenge Center is a unique, specialized facility designed to challenge human volunteers with the malaria parasite via infected mosquitos. The primary goals of the HCC are to assess the safety and efficacy of malaria vaccine candidates and preventive therapeutics.

The HCC has one of only a handful of facilities in the world where malaria parasites are inoculated via mosquito bite to humans under a meticulously regulated process. The center has the capacity both to generate malaria-infected mosquitoes and to deliver controlled infections to individuals in early phase trials. Overall, the HCC and its collaborators have conducted nearly 150 controlled human malaria infection challenges in healthy adults under experimental conditions.

Contact Seattle Malaria Clinical Trials Center

1100 Fairview Ave. N.
Mail Stop E3-300
PO Box 19024
Seattle, WA 98109-1024

Phone: 206.667.3468

Driving Directions

Campus map

How to Find Us

We’re located in the Arnold Building of the Robert W. Day Campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle.

For directions, parking and public transportation information, download the Getting to Campus PDF.

If you need additional information, email us at or call us at 206.667.5416.

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