Professor Coombs joined the University of Strathclyde in October 2006 to become Head of the new Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences and Head of the School of Pharmacy. He also became Professor of Biochemical Parasitology. His current research focuses on three unicellular parasitic protozoa, Leishmania, the causative agent of leishmaniasis, Plasmodium falciparum, the most pernicious causative agent of human malaria, and Trichomonas, a very common sexually transmitted pathogen. These diseases cause widespread suffering and current treatment is unsatisfactory. The long term aim of his work is to underpin the development of novel therapies, either drugs or vaccines, which exploit unique biochemical aspects of the parasites.
Professor Coombs was trained as a biochemist and carried out postgraduate and postdoctoral research on the mode of action of antiparasite drugs before moving to Glasgow in 1974 to establish his own research group specialising in biochemical parasitology. Since then he has been active in elucidating biochemical adaptations of a range of parasitic protozoa, including pioneering studies on Leishmania amastigotes and peptidases of trypanosomatids. His research output is reflected in the publication of more than 200 original papers, five books, several patents, the award of the Seymour H. Hunter prize by the Society of Protozoologists in 1986, and election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1993. His group has extensive experience in a range of biochemical and parasitological methods and a keen interest in identification and characterisation of the biological function of parasite-specific proteins and exploiting these proteins as vaccines, drug targets and diagnostics.