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 assistant 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 (now Centre for Molecular Therapeutics). I have held consistent NHMRC funding in the form of fellowships (currently senior principal research fellow), program grants, project grants and development grants, as well as regular funding from the US National Insitutes of Health and various pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson. I am lead founder of Paragen Bio, a spin-out company developing worm-derived proteins as anti-inflammatory therapeutics.

My group is primarily interested in the secretomes of parasitic helminths, and the subsequent use of worm secreted proteins as therapeutics 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 therapeutic properties of iatrogenic hookworm infection in human inflammatory 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 particular emphasis on extracellular proteins and vesicles. 

In addition to my role at JCU, I serve as deputy editor of the International Journal for Parasitology.

  • 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
  • 2014 - NHMRC Ten of the Best 2013
  • 2012 - Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to spend three months at University of California, Irvine
  • 2019 - Fellow of the Australian Society for Parasitology
  • 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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 237+ 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 Health & Medical Research Council - e-Asia Joint Research Program Funding

Tools to diagnose carcinogenic liver fluke infection

Indicative Funding
$510,337 over 3 years
This program aims to develop molecular tests to diagnose carcinogenic infections with parasitic liver flukes. Throughout Eurasia, ingestion of raw or undercooked fish infected with Opisthorchis species flukes leads to infection, which over decades culminates in fatal liver cancer. Sensitive point-of-care tests to diagnose fluke infection are urgently needed and will be the focus of this proposal.
Alex Loukas and Mark Pearson in collaboration with Javier Sotillo-Gallego, Olga Fedorova, Philip Felgner and Thewarch Laha (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, Yale University, University of California and Khon Kaen University)
Liver Fluke; Parisitology; Diagnostic; Carcinogenic infections; OpisThorchis

National Institute 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

National Health & Medical Research Council - Program

Tropical diseases: Translating discoveries into better health

Indicative Funding
$4,400,810 over 5 years (administered by University of Melbourne)
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 (The University of Melbourne, Menzies Research Institute, Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, 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

National Health & Medical Research Council - Development Grant

Hookworm peptide therapeutic for oral treatment of IBD

Indicative Funding
$732,700 over 2 years
We intend to develop an orally delivered peptide that can modulate the immune system and be developed as a therapeutic for inflammatory bowel disease. We have identified a peptide, derived from a hookworm protein, that alleviates the clinical symptoms of experimental colitis when orally administered to mice. The peptide has bioactivity with human cells ex vivo and displays desirable drug-like properties. The aim of this project is to acquire further data on the mechanism of action and formulation conditions to facilitate formal product development prior to licensing and clinical trials.
Alex Loukas, Norelle Daly, Paul Giacomin, John Miles, Roland Ruscher, Keith Dredge, Istvan Toth, Mariusz Skwarczynski, Matthew Moyle, Ashley Waardenberg, John Croese, Matt Field and Tony Rahman (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, The University of Queensland and The Prince Charles Hospital)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease; Peptide; therapeutic; Hookworm; Oral delivery

National Health & Medical Research Council - 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

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

An integrated, multi-model bio-layer interferometry facility

Indicative Funding
$945,000 over 1 year (administered by University of Queensland)
Biomolecular interaction research in Australia is currently constrained by low-throughput, labour intensive techniques that impede research progress and often forces it overseas. This project aims to develop a world class, integrated, multi-node bio-layer interferometry facility. This project expects to generate new knowledge in diverse areas of research ranging from biodiscovery to agricultural vaccine technology. Using biolayer interferometry, the leading-edge biomolecular interaction technique will provide significant benefits by developing high-significant assay techniques, thus enabling diverse streams of national benefit research and propelling Australia to the forefront of biomolecular interaction research.
Brian Fry, Godwin Ayoko, Brett Collins, Scott Cummins, Norelle Daly, Denise Doolan, Luke Guddat, Emad Kiriakous, Alex Loukas, Stephen Mahler, John Miles, Bernd Rehm, Tomer Ventura, Irina Vetter and Wang Tianfang (The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine and Griffith University)
Protein Interactions; interferometry; Therapeutics

Merchant Charitable Foundation - Donation

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

Indicative Funding
$450,000 over 3 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

Australian Research Council - Special Research Initiatives Scheme

Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine

Indicative Funding
$42,000,000 over 7 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

Department of Industry - Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation Programme

Tools to control Schistosomiasis

Indicative Funding
$482,000 over 3 years, in partnership with MERCK ($600,000)
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

Coeliac Australia - Project Grant

Hookworm therapy for restoring tolerance in coeliac disease

Indicative Funding
$86,110 over 1 year
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

National Health & Medical Research Council - 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 Health & Medical Research Council - Program

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

Indicative Funding
$330,944 over 5 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

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.

  • Marine algal compounds as novel therapeutics for food allergy. (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Evaluating Zoonotic Malaria Transmission in North Sumatra, Indonesia (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Development of Anti-Inflammatory Peptides (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Structure and Function of Ichthyocrinotoxins in Stone Fish and it's possible Application as an Anti-Helminth Treatment (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Structure, function and synthesis of anti-inflammatory peptides targeting inflammatory bowel diseases (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Biodiscovery of anti-inflammatory drug leads from parasites and medicinal plants of Australian wet tropics. (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)

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


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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  • E5.103, AITHM Cairns (Cairns campus)
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