I obtained a BSc Hons in 1990 and a PhD in 1995 from University of Queensland in the field of immunoparasitology. I then conducted postdoctoral work at University of Edinburgh with Rick Maizels and an assitant professorship at George Washington University in the US to work with Peter Hotez and the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative. In 2004 I returned to Australia as an NHMRC Career Development Fellow at Queensland Institute of Medical Research where I established the Helminth Biology laboratory. In 2010 I moved to James Cook University in Cairns, QLD as a Tropical Research Leader, where I established the Centre for Biodiscovery and Molecular Development of Therapeutics (CBMDT). I have held consistent NHMRC funding in the form of fellowships (currently senior principal research fellow), program grants and project grants, as well as regular funding from the US National Insitutes of Health and various phamraceutical companies, including Merck and Johnson & Johnson.

My group is primarily interested in the secretomes of parasitic helminths, and the subsequent use of worm secreted proteins as therpeutics and diagnostic tools. Major projects in the lab include;

1. Use of worm proteins as novel anti-inflammatories for treating a range of autoimmune and allergic disorders of humans.

2. Clinical trials to assess the therpeutic properties of iatrogenic hookworm infection in human inflamamtory and metabolic diseases

3. Use of proteome microarrays to discover vaccine and diagnostic antigens for human helminth infections.

4. Understanding the mechanisms by which parasitic helminths suppress (and in some cases, drive) immunopathology with a particuarl emphasis on extracellular proteins and vesicles. 

In addition to my role at JCU, I served as editor-in-chief of the International Journal for Parasitology from 2009-15 and am now Deputy Editor of the journal.

  • Helminth secretomes and how they orchestrate a parasitic existence.
  • Helminth vaccine discovery and development.
  • Helminth-derived anti-inflammatory proteins.
  • 2010 to present - Professor, James Cook University (Cairns, QLD)
  • 2004 to 2009 - Group Leader, Queensland Institute of Medical Research (Brisbane, QLD)
  • 2002 to 2004 - Assistant Professor, George Washington University (Washington, DC, USA)
  • 2000 to 2002 - Howard Florey fellow, Queensland Institute of Medical Research (Brisbane, QLD)
  • 1996 to 1999 - Postdoc, University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, UK)
  • 1991 to 1995 - PhD student, University of Queensland (Brisbane, QLD)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2014 - NHMRC Ten of the Best 2013
  • 2012 - Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to spend three months at University of California, Irvine
  • 2017 to 2021 - NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow
  • 2012 to 2016 - NHMRC Principal Research Fellow
  • 2007 to 2011 - NHMRC Senior Research Fellow
  • 2004 to 2006 - NHMRC Career Development Fellow
  • 1999 to 2000 - NHMRC Howard Florey fellowship
  • 2018 - Distinguished Professor
  • 2009 to 2014 - Editor-in-Chief, International Journal for Parasitology
  • 2007 to 2008 - Deputy Editor, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 191+ research outputs authored by Prof Alex Loukas from 2002 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

National Institutes of Health - RO1

Carcinogenic liver fluke infection: Gene editing- and vaccination-mediated approaches to interrupt host-parasite communication

Indicative Funding
$825,674 over 5 years (administered by George Washington University)
Long term infection with liver fluke ? a food-borne parasitic worm ? leads to cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), a form of liver cancer with a dismal prognosis. Previously we identified proteins and vesicles from these parasites that may cause this cancer. This new project will investigate the roles of these parasite proteins and vesicles in cancer, which may lead to new treatments and control for fluke infection and CCA
Alex Loukas, Michael Smout and Javier Sotillo-Gallego (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Cancer; Infectious disease; Parasite; CRISPR/Cas9; Vaccines

NHMRC - Program

Tropical diseases: Translating discoveries into better health

Indicative Funding
$4,400,810 over 5 years (administered by QIMR)
Our overall working hypotheses are: 1. The rational design of tropical disease vaccines and other therapeutics requires improved understanding of immunology, host-parasite interactions and application of innovative bioengineering. 2.Improved interventions will be required to eliminate tropical infectious diseases. Our Specific Aims are: 1. Discover pathogenic and immune mechanisms, protective antigens, biomarkers and therapeutic targets for the control of tropical infectious diseases. 2. Develop new vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. 3. Optimise human pathogen challenge models to study host-pathogen interactions and test new vaccines and therapeutics. 4. Develop and test new clinical and public health interventions in disease-endemic settings.
James McCarthy, Nicholas Anstey, Denise Doolan, Chris Engwerda, Michael Good, Alex Loukas, Donald McManus, Richard Price and Istvan Toth (Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Menzies Research Institute, Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, Griffith University, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Menzies School of Health Research and The University of Queensland)
Malaria; Vaccine; Diagnostic; Protein; Therapeutic; Immunomodulatory

NHMRC - Senior Principal Research Fellowship

Helminth secretomes: from vaccines to novel anti-inflammatory biologics

Indicative Funding
$938,910 over 5 years
Over the next 5 years I will use innovative approaches to develop a pipeline of helminth vaccine antigens and immunoregulatory biologics while progressing the current lead candidates through clinical development and testing.
Alex Loukas (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Allergy; Vaccines; Drug development; Autoimmunity; Helminths

Merchant Charitable Foundation - Donation

Pre-clinical development of a liver fluke growth factor for treating non-healing wounds

Indicative Funding
$300,000 over 2 years
This research proposal aims to develop more effective treatments for wound healing, improving treatment options for diabetic patients in Australia and eventually worldwide. This is likely to alleviate suffering from the disease and also decrease the AUD$3.6 billion financial burden of diabetic wound ulcers on the healthcare system. Although we showed that the liver fluke granulin protein has wound healing properties, it is difficult to produce in recombinant form. We have now developed a minimized version of granulin and produce it as a synthetic peptide that when applied topically displays wound-healing properties as potent as the full-length protein. Using the peptide as a topical agent is ideal because it capitalizes on the potency and specificity often associated with peptide-based drugs but does not require the high levels of bioavailability necessary for orally administered drugs. Our research will also provide advances in the field regarding the structure and folding of Ov-GRN-1, which will be of significant interest to researchers working specifically on growth factors and more broadly for those working on disulphide-rich peptides and proteins. Moreover, we believe that our decision to be guided in drug discovery by millennia of host-parasite coevolution will ensure that the most efficacious and safe drugs are identified and developed.
Alex Loukas, Michael Smout, Norelle Daly and Paramjit Bansal (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Liver Fluke; Growth Factor; Wound Repair; Therapeutics; Diabetes

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science - Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation Programme

Tools to control Schistosomiasis

Indicative Funding
$482,000 over 3 years, in partnership with MERCK ($600,000 over 3 yrs)
We will construct a proteome microarray of Schistosoma haematobium proteins to identify vaccine and diagnostic antigens for African schistosomiasis. Vaccine antigens will be prioritised and tested in collaboration with the Sabin Vaccine Institute, and diagnostic antigens will be developed in a funded partnership with Merck. Merck are also contributing funds to this project.
Alex Loukas in collaboration with Mark Pearson and Luke Becker (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Blood fluke; Schistosomiasis; Diagnostic; Vaccine; Proteins; Neglected Tropical Disease

Paragen Bio Pty Ltd - Contract Research

Paragen Bio Research Contract

Indicative Funding
The first tranche funds 6 months of a two-year development program to (1) generate a novel biologic for the treatment of inflammation, and (2) create a pipeline of related biologics with distinct MoAs and potentially for use in different indications. At the completion of the 2 year program we anticipate the lead biologic will be at a stage that is ready to commence a pilot clinical trial. The first tranche will specifically fund: 1. pre-clinical development of hookworm AIP proteins and peptides as the therapeutics for colitis 2. develop a pipeline of new hookworm-derived therapeutics for treating inflammation.
Alex Loukas, John Miles, Paul Giacomin and Norelle Daly in collaboration with Darren Pickering, Roland Ruscher, Stephanie Ryan and Geraldine Buitrago (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Hookworm; Protein; Inflammatory Bowel Disease; Biotechnology; Autoimmunity; Anti-inflammatory

Coeliac Australia - Project Grant

Hookworm therapy for restoring tolerance in coeliac disease

Indicative Funding
$86,110 over 3 years
Parasitic worms have an amazing ability to manipulate the immune system, and our research group recently discovered how they may hold the key for treating inflammatory diseases such as Coeliac Disease. The aim of our reseach is to further develop this novel therapy in a clinical trial and study the mechanism of how worms control the immune response, including identifying the molecules that the work produces that could be produced as a pill-based medication for treating coeliac disease.
John Croese, Paul Giacomin, Tony Rahman and Alex Loukas (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, The Prince Charles Hospital, College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Autoimmunity; Parasite; Inflammation

Australian Research Council - Special Research Initiatives Scheme

Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine

Indicative Funding
$42,000,000 over 4 years
AITHM intends to build Australian research capacity in tropical health and biomedical sciences, to improve national capacity to identify risks to health security and biosecurity from re-emerging infectious diseases prevalent in tropical countries, and to undertake research which targets improvements in health outcomes and service delivery for regional, remote, and under-served communities in tropical Australia. This requires expansion of tropically based research facilities, the researcher skill base, and research programs.
Louis Schofield, Maxine Whittaker, Robyn McDermott and Alex Loukas (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Tropical Health and Medicine; Northern Australia

NHMRC - Project Grant

Secreted exosome-like vesicles from the carcinogenic liver fluke

Indicative Funding
$742,660 over 4 years
Parasitic worms secrete molecules from their oral openings and outer surfaces as they feed and reproduce inside their human hosts. These molecules are referred to as Excretory/Secretory (ES) products, akin to our saliva and sweat. These ES products represent the molecular interface of the host-parasite relationship. We recently showed that ES products from the parasitic liver fluke, a worm that is a major cause of liver cancer throughout parts of SE Asia, are taken up by cells lining the human bile ducts, the site where the parasite resides for years at a time. Until now the mechanisms by which these molecules are taken up and internalised by host cells was unknown. We now show that liver fluke ES proteins enter into human bile duct cells by forming small cell-like vesicles called exosomes. Once the flukes exosomes get inside human bile duct cells they induce a series of changes inside the cell which typifies the early stages of cancer formation. We now propose to better characterise the process of exosome uptake by human bile duct cells and exploit this information to discover vaccines to combat this carcinogenic infection and develop new tools to identify people who are most at risk of developing cancer from liver fluke infection.
Alex Loukas, Javier Sotillo-Gallego and Thewarch Laha in collaboration with Paul Brindley, Jeffrey Bethony, Banchob Sripa and Jason Mulvenna (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, Khon Kaen University, George Washington University and Queensland Institute of Medical Research)
Opisthorchis viverrini; Liver Cancer; Exosome; Excretory/secretory; Bile duct

National Institutes of Health - Research Grant

Role of liver fluke granulin in cholangiocarcinogenesis

Indicative Funding
$658,669 over 5 years (administered by George Washington University)
Long term infection with liver fluke - a food-borne parasitic worm -leads to cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), a form of liver cancer with a dismal prognosis. Previously we identified a protein from these parasites that may cause this cancer. This new project will investigate the role of this parasite protein (termed granulin) in cancer, which may lead to new treatments and control for fluke infection and CCA.
Paul Brindley, Alex Loukas, Jason Mulvenna, Thewarch Laha and Banchob Sripa (George Washington University, Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine and Khon Kaen University)
Cancer; Biomarkers; Opisthorchis viverrine; Cholangiocarcinoma; Infection-induced carcinoma; Proteomics

NHMRC - Program

Tropical Disease - immunity, pathogenesis and vaccine development: global translation.

Indicative Funding
$330,944 over 2 years (administered by Griffith University)
Malaria, helminths and streptococci are poorly controlled and neglected pathogens of global significance causing major morbidity and mortality - particularly in disadvantaged communities. This Program brings together a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians who will leverage their unparalleled understanding of tropical health, microbiology and pathogenesis of these infections to develop new therapeutics and vaccines. The Program has both standard and unique animal models and unrivalled access to controlled human experimental infections, clinical trials and longitudinal field studies to define the impact of infection on the host immune response.
Denise Doolan, Michael Good, Donald McManus, Alex Loukas, Nicholas Anstey, C Engewerda, J McCarthy, R Price and Istvan Toth (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, Griffith University, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Menzies Research Institute and The University of Queensland)
Vaccines; Immunity; Infectious Diseases

Australian Research Council - Linkage - Infrastructure (L-IEF)

High-throughput DNA sequencing facility at James Cook University

Indicative Funding
Many JCU projects underpinned by high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies require immediate direct local access for efficiency and quality assurance. Currently due to the tyranny of distance accessing high-throughput sequencing significantly increases turnaround time and can place valuable and unrecoverable samples to problems associated with reliable freighting and transport of material from infectious disease agents. Therefore it is essential that a high-throughput sequencing facility is established in northern Australia that can service the region and that allows rapid turnaround times, flexibility in services available including customisation, the ability to run pilot projects on small scales and alleviates biosecurity concerns.
David Miller, Dean Jerry, Alex Loukas and Cinzia Cantacessi (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and College of Science & Engineering)
Genotyping; metagenomics; Transcriptomics

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Regulation of immunity and inflammation during parasitic helminth infection by inflammasomes (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Evaluation of the tetraspanin membrane protein, Sm-TSP-3 as a target for a schistosomiasis vaccine (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • The Effects of Anti-Inflammatory Protein-2 on Depression-like Behaviour in Mice (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Curing Asthma with Human Hookworm Proteins (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Schistosome exosomes - immunobiology and vaccine efficacy (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • High throughput production and screening of hookworm derived anti-imflammatory proteins. (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • The Impact of Hookworm Infection and Hookworm Anti_inflammatory Proteins on Diabetes in Mice. (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Novel Biopharmaceuticals for Food Allergy (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Characterization of the excretory/secretory molecules and extracellular vesicles from Schistosoma haematobium and their role in host-parasite relationships (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Structure, function and synthesis of anti-inflammatory peptides targeting inflammatory bowel diseases (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Detection, prevention and management of Viral Encaphalopathy and Retinopathy in cultured tropical grouper E.coioides and E.lanceolatus (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Bio Molecular Studies on Allergenic Proteins Causing Fish Allergy in Australian Children for Improved Diagnosis (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Biomarker and Therapeutic Target Discovery in patients with Hyper lgE Conditions (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Assessing the anti-colitic properties of the hookworm protein Na-AIP-1 (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit the JCU Research Data Catalogue.


The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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  • E4.101, Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (Cairns campus)
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  4. Mr Darren Pickering
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  5. Dr Michael Smout
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