Professor Prof Alex Loukas is a Distinguished Professor and head of the Centre for Biodiscovery and Molecular Development of Therapeutics at James Cook University.
He obtained a BSc Hons in 1990 and a PhD in 1995 from University of Queensland in the field of immunoparasitology. He then conducted postdoctoral work at the University of Edinburgh and undertook an assistant professorship at George Washington University in the US to work with Peter Hotez and the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative. In 2004, he returned to Australia as an NHMRC Career Development Fellow at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research where he established the Helminth Biology laboratory. In 2010 he moved to James Cook University in Cairns, where he established the Centre for Biodiscovery and Molecular Development of Therapeutics (CBMDT). Since then he has held consistent NHMRC funding in the form of fellowships and is currently senior principal research fellow.
Prof Loukas’ research focuses on three of the most debilitating human helminths – hookworms, blood flukes (schistosomes) and the carcinogenic liver fluke. They are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of DALYs lost each year in developing countries. They have been eradicated from developed countries, but their disappearance has been accompanied by an increase in the prevalence of autoimmune and allergic diseases.
Key outcomes of his research include translating his findings of hookworm and schistosomiasis vaccine antigens into clinical trials with phase I clinical trials for vaccines for schistosomiasis and hookworm completed. He is part of a team that recently completed a clinical trial showing that experimental hookworm infection enables coeliac disease subjects to tolerate large quantities of dietary gluten. This latter finding in particular will revolutionise the way we view parasitic helminths and treat inflammatory diseases in the future. Alex is also the lead founder and head of research of a new biotechnology company (Paragen Bio) using hookworm recombinant proteins to treat autoimmune diseases. Series A investors include US pharma giant AbbVie and Australian VC groups Brandon Capital and One Ventures.
Prof Loukas is internationally recognised scientist with an h index of 73 (Google scholar) and has published >300 articles with more than 18,600 citations in journals including Nature Medicine, Nature Genetics, Nature Reviews Microbiology, Nature Reviews Disease Primers, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet Infectious Diseases, and most recently Science Translational Medicine. He has also been very successful in obtaining research funding and has been CI on 3 Program and 7 NHMRC grants and 5 Fellowships totaling ~$60M. He has been CI on grants from international governments, philanthropic and industry organisations totaling >22M and recently raised $6M for the biotechnology company that he founded, Paragen Bio.
Alex has also been a very active member of the ASP and served as Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal for Parasitology for six years and steered the journal through its highest ever impact factor.
In view of his outstanding contributions to science, parasitology and the society, Prof Alex Loukas is an extremely worthy recipient of the title, Fellow of the Australian Society for Parasitology.