Plasmodium knowlesi malaria is a newly described zoonosis in Southeast Asia. Similarly to Plasmodium falciparum, P. knowlesi can reach high parasitaemia in the human host and both species cause severe and fatal illness. Interpretation of host-parasite interactions in studies of P. knowlesi malaria adds a counterpoint to studies on P. falciparum. However, there is no model system for testing the resulting hypotheses on malaria pathophysiology or for developing new interventions. Plasmodium knowlesi is amenable to genetic manipulation in vitro and several nonhuman primate species are susceptible to experimental infection. Here, we make a case for drawing on P. knowlesi as both a human pathogen and an experimental model to lift the roadblock between malaria research and its translation into human health benefits.