I completed my PhD in 1995 under the supervision of Paul Prociv and Joan Opdebeeck at the University of Queensland. My thesis topic was the development of a diagnostic immunoassay for human enteric infections with canine hookworms. My love of worms continued into my first postdoc at The University of Edinburgh with Rick Maizels which dealt with the proteomic characterisation and functional analyses of the major excretory/secretory (ES) proteins of the round worm Toxocara canis. I returned to Australia in 1999 on an NHMRC Howard Florey fellowship at QIMR in Brisbane, returning to hookworms but also expanding into schistosomiasis. A few years later I headed overseas again, this time to take up a post as Assistant Professor at George Washington University in the US to work with Peter Hotez and the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative (HHVI). Working with the HHVI provided an unique opportunity to test the vaccine efficacy of some of the ES proteins that I had been characterising at the molecular level. In 2004 I returned to QIMR on an NHMRC Career Development Award and 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).

My group is primarily interested in the secretomes of parasitic helminths, and the subsequent use of ES proteins as (1) vaccines for human helminth infections, and (2) novel anti-inflammatories for treating a range of autoimmune and allergic disorders of humans. 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
  • 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 156+ 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.

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

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, 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 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

Childrens Hospital Foundation - Fellowship

Preclinical development of a hookworm recombinant protein for the prevention and the treatment of allergic asthma

Indicative Funding
Western lifestyle and loss of parasitic infections have greatly contributed to the rise of allergic diseases worldwide. This proposal investigates the hypothesis that allergy might be prevented by promoting tolerance with a hookworm recombinant protein administered via breastmilk modifying microbial composition in neonates. This work has the potential to slow down the prevalence of allergies and significantly decrease the overall disease burden.
Severine Navarro, Alex Loukas, John Upham and Chris Perry (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, The University of Queensland and Princess Alexandra Hospital)
Asthma; Children; Prevention; Hookworm; Protein; Allergy

NHMRC - Program Grant - NHMRC - Program Grant

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

NHMRC - Program

Tropical Disease - Immunity, pathogenesis and vaccine development: global translation

Indicative Funding
$2,151,865 over 5 years (administered by Griffith University)
Tropical diseases create a significant human and economic burden worldwide - particularly in resource-poor settings. Around half of the world's population is at risk of malaria. In Australia, Streptococcal and parasitic worm infections are particularly common in indigenous communities. This Program brings together leading experts to tackle these major health challenges. They are investigating how the body reacts to infection and creating new drugs and vaccines to eradicate these diseases.
Michael Good, Donald McManus, Istvan Toth, Nicholas Anstey, Denise Doolan, Chris Engwerda, Alex Loukas, James McCarthy and Richard Price in collaboration with Simon Apte, Michael Batzloff, Ashraful Haque, Yuesheng Li, Gabriela Minigo, Jason Mulvenna, Pavla Simerska and Tsin Yeo (Griffith University, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, The University of Queensland, Menzies School of Health Research and Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Tropical disease; Malaria; schistosomiasis; Streptococcus; Vaccine Development; Clinical Research; Medicinal Chemistry

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, Gregory Maes and Cinzia Cantacessi (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, College of Science & Engineering and Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Genotyping; metagenomics; Transcriptomics

NHMRC - Research Fellowship

Principal Research Fellowship

Indicative Funding
$702,795 over 5 years
My expertise is in the area of host-parasite interactions with a particular focus on the molecular basis of the interactions between helminth parasites of humans and host tissues. I use genomic and proteomic approaches to characterise the parasite secretome and the impact of these proteins on host tissues and immune responses. A major focus is in the development of antigen discovery approaches to aid the discovery and development of anthelmintic vaccines.
Alex Loukas (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine)
Helminth infection; Vaccine development; protein secretion; Immune response; Autoimmune Disease; Liver cancer

National Institute 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

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.

  • Bio Molecular Studies on Allergenic Proteins Causing Fish Allergy in Australian Children for Improved Diagnosis (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Development of Disulfide-Rich Peptides as Potential Drug Leads. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Curing Asthma with Human Hookworm Proteins (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Schistosome exosomes - immunobiology and vaccine efficacy (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Low Molecular Weight Proteins Produced by Hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum) and Their Use as Anti-Inflammatory Agents. (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Biomarker and Therapeutic Target Discovery in patients with Hyper lgE Conditions (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Tslp-dependent Regulation of Memory Immune Responses to Intestinal Pathogens (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Evaluation of the tetraspanin membrane protein, Sm-TSP-3 as a target for a schistosomiasis vaccine (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Characterisation of the extracellular vesicles secreted by the liver fluke Opisthorchis viverrine their implication in cholangiocarcinoma (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Novel Biopharmaceuticals for Food Allergy (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Detection, prevention and management of Viral Encaphalopathy and Retinopathy in cultured tropical grouper E.coioides and E.lanceolatus (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Rational vaccine development from genomic sequence information (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • The Impact of Hookworm Infection and Hookworm Anti_inflammatory Proteins on Diabetes in Mice. (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Assessing the anti-colitic properties of the hookworm protein Na-AIP-1 (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • High throughput production and screening of hookworm derived anti-imflammatory proteins. (PhD, Primary Advisor)

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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  • E4.110, Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (Cairns campus)
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