Around the universities

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 20 July 2015

Professor Rodney Phillips, an immunologist specialising in HIV and infectious disease whose distinguished career encompasses clinical practice, research and a number of influential medical administrative roles at Oxford University, has been appointed as Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of New South Wales.

An Australian who lived in the United Kingdom for 35 years, Professor Phillips graduated from the University of Melbourne and began his career at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

During this time he served for 6 months as medical registrar in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, where his encounters with tropical diseases such as endemic malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy sparked a lifelong research interest in the substantial health problems of resource-poor countries.

He moved to Guy’s Hospital in London in 1981 and joined Oxford University as a research lecturer in 1983, which allowed him to spend 4 years conducting bedside research in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka on patients with severe malaria, rabies and snakebite.

Back in the United Kingdom in 1986, he embarked on the retroviral research for which he is best known.

His initial research interest was genetic variation in HTLV-1, the first human retrovirus to be isolated, and he then went on to study the immunology of HIV.

His Oxford research group described for the first time how HIV evades cytotoxic T cells, and this basic research has led to much greater understanding of the challenges posed by the massive adaptive capacity of HIV.

Professor Phillips’s current research aims to understand the interaction between persistent viruses, particularly HIV/AIDS, and humans.

As well as basic research, he collaborates widely on clinical trials and has spent many years conducting clinical research into HIV in the KwaZulu-Natal province and Bloemfontein in South Africa.

During his 34 years at Oxford University, Professor Phillips served as Professor of Medicine and went on to become Head of Research and Associate Dean of the Division of Medical Sciences.

He took up the position as Vice-Dean of Medical Sciences in 2011.

He served as Director of the Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research, a research institute of about 150 investigators studying complex pathogens and the genetics of their human hosts, and was Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Institute for Emerging Infections, a unit aimed at investigating pandemic viral infections.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal College of Physicians (London), the Academy of Medical Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of Oxford’s Pembroke College.


Professor David Craik, from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, has been awarded a $2.97 million Australian Laureate Fellowship for his work with cyclic peptides. His program as an Australian Research Council Laureate will aim to find a way to turn peptides, produced naturally in plants, into stable, protein-based drugs that can be taken in the form of an edible plant seed (bio-pill) and used to treat a range of diseases with fewer side effects than existing therapies.

“This funding will help support talented young researchers in my group to translate their work into tangible outcomes”, Professor Craik said. “Peptides (mini proteins) are creating much excitement in the pharmaceutical industry, and the work funded in this fellowship will help to realise their potential as ‘next generation’ medicines.”


Sleep disorder expert Professor Peter Cistulli has been appointed the ResMed Chair in Sleep Medicine at the University of Sydney. Professor Cistulli will lead the University’s research, clinical and educational activities in advancing the field of sleep-disordered breathing and its impact on chronic disease management. The new Chair is funded by ResMed and will work across the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Charles Perkins Centre.

“As the ResMed Chair I will pursue my overarching vision for sleep to be recognized as a vital physiological function for wellbeing and health, with a focus on the role of sleep-disordered breathing and its impact on many chronic diseases”, Professor Cistulli said. “We have a huge opportunity to better co-ordinate research and education activities across our University to deliver real life solutions for the many sufferers of sleep disorders, as well as training our next generation of researchers and clinicians in the field.”

Professor Cistulli has been an active researcher clinician in respiratory and sleep medicine for 25 years, and has worked at the University as Professor of Respiratory Medicine for the past 10 years. He heads the Centre for Sleep Health and Research at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.


  • Cate Swannell



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