Research in Focus: Neuroprotection Agent

09 June 2022

MSWA is proud to be funding this important West Australian research that will potentially provide the first effective treatment to minimise the damage that occurs in the early phases of stroke.

We went straight to Professor Bruno Meloni, who heads Stroke Laboratory Research at the Perron Institute, and Department of Neurosurgery, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH) and spoke with him on his journey and research so far.

Prof Bruno Meloni

My passion for research started in 1985 after obtaining a Research Assistant position in a parasitology laboratory in the Veterinary School at Murdoch University. I was hooked from day one, so much so that I completed an Honours degree, PhD and a post-doctoral study with the team at Murdoch University.

In 1996, I was successful in obtaining a second post-doctoral position within the Department of Neurosurgery at SCGH, with the objective to establish a research laboratory with neuroprotection as its central theme, which I did with the head of Stroke Research, Clinical Professor Neville Knuckey. The laboratory was, and still is, based at the Perron Institute.

Over the next 25 years, my research centred on understanding the mechanisms involved in brain injury after stroke and the identification of potential neuroprotective targets to aid the development of new therapies to reduce injury. Through this research our laboratory identified a novel class of neuroprotective peptides known as cationic arginine-rich peptides (CARPs), which have great potential to be developed into therapeutics to minimise brain injury after stroke and related conditions, as well as chronic neurodegenerative disorders.

Currently, my focus is to progress the application of a CARP developed in my laboratory, known as R18, as a therapeutic to limit the brain injury that occurs in stroke. Stroke is the current leading and growing cause of acquired neurological disability and second leading cause of death worldwide. Each year, approximately 56,000 Australians will suffer new or recurrent strokes. To make matters worse, at present there are no clinically available neuroprotective drugs to minimise brain injury after stroke.

To help progress the development of R18 as a neuroprotective therapeutic, a spin-off company from UWA and Perron Institute was established. The company, Argenica Therapeutics, listed on the ASX in June 2021, and renamed R18, ARG-007.

To date both in vitro and in vivo (preclinical) safety and toxicity assessments of ARG-007 have been encouraging, and part of these studies have been supported by MSWA’s funding commitment to West Australian research. It is hoped a Phase 1 human safety study will commence later in the year. Planning is also underway for a Phase 2 study in stroke patients. It is anticipated that ARG-007 therapy, could be given to stroke patients by ambulance paramedics before reaching hospital, as early intervention provides the best opportunity to minimise brain tissue damage, and allow more patients to benefit from clot dissolving treatments or removal of the clot via a catheter. Importantly, early intervention with ARG-007 could be particularly beneficial for people in rural and remote areas before transportation to a metropolitan hospital.

I am also optimistic that ARG-007, due to its unique and multiple neuroprotective mechanisms of action, has promise as a neuroprotective therapeutic for other acute disorders such as traumatic brain injury, and chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. In the meantime, the demonstration that ARG-007 can improve patient outcomes after stroke will be a career defining achievement and represent a bench to clinic research story that started 37 years ago in a parasitology laboratory.

Learn more about Professor Meloni's research.