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IMPACT – Prof Ken Walder


I am currently the Chair in Metabolic Diseases at Deakin University and Co-Director of IMPACT Institute. I have authored over 140 publications, with more than 4,000 total citations (Scopus).

I was awarded my PhD in 1997 and received a Fogarty Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to complete a two-year post-doctoral position in Phoenix, USA. During this time I studied genetic factors involved in obesity and type 2 diabetes in Pima Indians.

Over the past few years, I have led a research program using gene expression signature technology to repurpose a drug (methazolamide) for type 2 diabetes, including the design and successful completion of extensive pre-clinical testing in various rodent models which showed the efficacy of the drug.

These pre-clinical studies enabled the progression of methazolamide to a Phase 2 clinical trial, where we achieved the primary outcome of significantly lowering HbA1c in diabetes patients. I devised this research program and was the lead scientist throughout all stages of the project up until the clinical trial.

I currently lead a research program to repurpose drugs for chronic fatigue syndrome and mental health disorders. I have a particular focus on bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and a biomarker discovery program to predict treatment responses and develop personalised medicine approaches for mental health disorders.

Research Focus

My current focus is on finding new treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome and mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. We work with adult stem cells collected from participants with these diseases. We conduct sophisticated experiments in the cells to identify differences in characteristics between the cells derived from people suffering from these diseases compared with cells obtained from healthy control subjects.

We then screen our drug library to find drugs that affect the cells derived from the participants in a manner that makes them more closely resemble the cells from healthy control subjects, thereby identifying drugs that may be useful for treating these diseases.

Our drug library contains off-patent drugs previously used to treat other diseases, allowing us to rapidly move from drug discovery into testing in participants with the disease in a clinical trial. Ken Walder about me

Awards & Achievements

  • Continuous category 1 grant funding for over 10 years, including NHMRC project grant and NHMRC Targeted Call for Research Grant as CIA
  • Chief Investigator on a NHMRC Centre of Excellence
  • Previous funding from ARC and a range of philanthropic and commercial entities
  • Invited symposia presentations at local and international conferences including the 14th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry in Vancouver, Canada, in June 2019 and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders 21st Annual Conference, in Sydney in March 2019
  • Principal Supervisor for 13 PhD candidates who successfully completed, and more than 30 BSc(Hons) students
  • Named as an inventor on 9 granted patents

Feature Publications

  • Kidnapillai S, Bortolasci CC, Udawela M, Panizzutti B, Spolding B, Connor T, Sanigorski A, Dean OM, Crowley T, Jamain S, Gray L, Scarr E, Leboyer M, Dean B, Berk M, Walder K. The use of a gene expression signature and connectivity map to repurpose drugs for bipolar disorder. World J Biol Psychiatry, 2016, 6:e842.
  • Bortolasci CC, Spolding B, Callaly E, Martin S, Panizzutti B, Kidnapillai S, Connor T, Hasebe K, Mohebbi M, Dean OM, McGee SL, Dodd S, Gray L, Berk M, Walder K. Mechanisms underpinning the polypharmacy effects of medications in psychiatry. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol, 2018, 21:582-591.
  • Kidnapillai S, Bortolasci CC, Panizzutti B, Spolding B, Connor T, Bonifacio K, Sanigorski A, Dean OM, Crowley T, Jamain S, Gray L, Leboyer M, Berk M, Walder K. Drugs used in the treatment of bipolar disorder and their effect on cholesterol biosynthesis- A possible therapeutic mechanism. World J Biol Psychiatry, 2019, 20:766-777.
  • Kidnapillai S, Wade B, Bortolasci CC, Panizzutti B, Spolding B, Connor T, Crowley T, Jamain S, Gray L, Leboyer M, Berk M, Walder K. Drugs used to treat bipolar disorder act via microRNAs to regulate expression of genes involved in neurite outgrowth. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2020, 34:370-379.
  • Bortolasci CC, Spolding B, Kidnapillai S, Richardson MF, Vasilijevic N, Martin SD, Gray LJ, McGee SL, Berk M, Walder K. Effects of psychoactive drugs on cellular bioenergetic pathways. World J Biol Psychiatry, 2020, 29:1-15.

How you can help

Participate in a Clinical Trial

To find out about Clinical Trials currently underway at Barwon Health, click here. To learn more about the Adrian Costa Clinical Trials Centre, click here.


Research requires ongoing investment and there are several ways to support our work. You can make a donation today and contribute to an item on our research group’s wish list, consider a bequest in your will, or establish a lasting legacy fund in your name. No matter what size, your philanthropic support will deliver an immediate impact to this important work. To donate now or for more information, please contact the Barwon Health Foundation.

Last Modified: Monday, 01 February 2021

Ken Walder photo

Prof Ken Walder


Theme Leader, Novel Treatment Discovery, IMPACT

[email protected]

Phone: (03) 5227 2883