UNDERSTANDING Parkinson’s and researching potential treatments

Queensland Parkinson’s Disease Project at Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery

As part of a worldwide network of top researchers tackling Parkinson’s, the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery is making major strides in understanding the disease that affects 1 in 350 Australians.

Working with the world-leading, on-site ‘Nature Bank’, the Griffith University team can test thousands of botanical specimens for promising drug approaches to Parkinson’s. 

Professor George Mellick’s team at Griffith University heads a research centre that is part of an international network of 30 institutes in 20 countries. It punches above its weight in enhancing understanding of this disease that robs over 50,000 years of otherwise healthy life from Australians every year.

Working as part of the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery, the team has access to over 17,000 specimens in the Nature Bank, which it can test in its search to understand the disease’s effects and to discover potential new treatments.

Aegium Foundation gives annual funding to George Mellick’s team for the Queensland Parkinson’s Project, helping provide a sustainable foundation for its work.

Meet Professor George Mellick

Professor Mellick trained in chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Queensland completing an Honours degree in Natural Products Chemistry and a PhD in Medicine. He became a Project Leader in the Centre for Genomics and Bioinformatics, Karolinska Institute, Sweden and joined the staff of Griffith University as an Associate Professor in 2006. His neurological research has been focused on Parkinson’s Disease but his research into brain functioning may also have implications for Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. As part of his drive to improve treatment for Parkinson’s Disease he has also served on the Parkinson’s Australia Board and on the Management Committee of Queensland’s Parkinson’s Disease Society. He continues to be a member of the Expert Advisory Panel for Parkinson’s Australia Board.

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Our achievements

Aegium Foundation's support has helped the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery to:

  • Recruit over 4000 participants into the Queensland Parkinson’s Disease Project and establish over 200 human cell lines for study
  • Publish 82 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals
  • Train 11 new PhD graduates and 40 Honours, Masters and project students in Parkinson’s Disease
  • Win prestigious national and international competitive grants valued at $3.9 million.

“We would never have established this project without the support of Aegium Foundation. They have been invaluable in keeping us going and helping us be sustainable. Grants come and go but Aegium funding is the foundation we have built on.”

Professor George Mellick

Facts about the disease and Eskitis Institute research

  • One in every 350 Australians develops Parkinson’s – more people will be living with Parkinson’s as the population ages.
  • Age is a risk factor for Parkinson’s and there are some strong genetic components, which are an important part of the research.
  • The team has an ongoing study of 2,500 Queenslanders (half with and half without Parkinson’s Disease), which is following their progress and testing key markers over 15 years.
  • The Nature Bank is a world-leading resource for potential drug discovery and continues to collect previously unknown specimens from rainforest, reef and elsewhere.
  • Cells of Parkinson’s sufferers are different from healthy cells and thousands of substances have already been tested for their effect on these cells.
  • Parkinson’s Disease is a complex disease with many different forms and symptoms – the team is looking for biomarkers of the disease to study its progression.