Melissa is a Research Assistant Professor specializing in translational epilepsy research. She develops and implements preclinical models to support the early evaluation of novel investigational pharmacotherapies for epilepsy in discrete patient populations, including elderly patients with epilepsy and those with comorbid seizures associated with aging-related neurological disorders.
Melissa completed her Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah. Before arriving at the UW, she was Associate Director of the Anticonvulsant Drug Development Program at the University of Utah. This program was supported by the long-standing National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP) and contributed to the development of several FDA-approved therapeutics for the treatment of epilepsy, including most recently cannabidiol.
Her work with the NINDS ETSP highlighted a major disparity in preclinical epilepsy therapy development. The majority of preclinical epilepsy therapy development is conducted in young adult, neurologically-intact rodent seizure models, which do not accurately represent the entire spectrum of patients with epilepsy.
Elderly individuals represent the fastest growing patient demographic with epilepsy diagnosis, yet very few preclinical studies are conducted in appropriately-aged preclinical models to support therapy discovery and development.
“My research interests within the Plein Center aim to address this discrepancy to identify and validate preclinical models of seizure and epilepsy in aged rodents and rodents with aging-related neurological diseases to improve therapeutic options for elderly patients with epilepsy. We hope that more frequent use of aged rodent models of seizure and epilepsy for preclinical epilepsy therapy development will provide improved efficacy data, as well as greater confidence in the safety and tolerability of novel therapies for older adults with epilepsy.”—Melissa Barker-Haliski, PhD, Research Assistant Professor
Although a transplant to Seattle, Melissa grew up in Eugene, OR and attended the University of Oregon for undergrad. “I am at home in the Northwest. I honestly missed the rain while in Utah,” she said. Melissa speaks fluent French and lived in the Loire Valley in college. She loves to ski, run, hike and just be outdoors when she is not in the office; she is looking forward to teaching her daughter to ski now that Washington is home. Her preferred coffee is a nonfat latte, unless it’s the holidays, then it’s a peppermint mocha.