Motoneuronal diseases cause a degeneration of the nerve pathways controlling muscle activity. The diseases are severe and physically debilitating disorders which lead to progressive weakness and wasting of muscles. Many of the diseases are incurable.
Dr Meunier is developing botox to selectively deliver drugs to motoneurons to directly treat motorneuron diseases.
"I first became interested in investigating neurotoxins because they are fantastic molecular tools to dissect synaptic mechanisms," Dr Meunier said.
"The aim of our lab is to understand the molecular mechanism underlying neuronal communication. The legacy of millions of years of evolution and competition between venomous species has resulted in deadly neurotoxins capable of blocking neuronal communication. I am using our knowledge of the mode of action of these neurotoxins to design a selective motoneuron delivery system that could change our way of treating motoneuronal diseases."
Dr Meunier's innovative research caught the attention of UQ's main commercialisation company, UniQuest Pty Ltd, which runs the annual Trailblazer competition.
UniQuest Managing Director David Henderson said the Trailblazer judges were impressed by Dr Meunier's research and the opportunities surrounding it.
"The therapeutic applications of this research are important, as it could help prevent or cure motoneuronal diseases," Mr Henderson said.
"Also, the research potentially has important applications for the treatment of other diseases."
Trailblazer is an annual event designed to reward and inspire researchers as well as promote innovative research with commercial potential. In 2006, entries were received from across all UQ's faculties with 11 awards presented to staff and students.
For interviews or further information, contact Jane Milne or Julia Renaud, UniQuest (+61 733 654 037 or +61 438 436 179), or Dr Fred Meunier on +61 733 653 506.