Dr Desa Lilic
Consultant Immunologist and Clinical Senior Lecturer


 I have a dual role as a research active academic/principle investigator and a consultant clinical immunologist overseeing an active laboratory and clinical NHS Immunology service


Desa Lilic, MD, DSc/PhD, FRCPath, Consultant Clinical Immunologist at the University Hospital of North Durham, Senior Clinical Lecturer at Newcastle University and previously Professor of Immunology, University Belgrade.

I moved to Newcastle, UK, in 1993. I am originally from Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, but have lived and trained in many different countries (Lebanon, Chile, USA, Denmark, Venezuela)

Roles and Responsibilities 

2012-> Clinical Senior Lecturer / Prunciple Investigator, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University

2005 -> Consultant Clinical Immunologist & Head of Service, Immunology Department, University                  Hospital of North Durham, County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust, Durham

1996- Honorary Consultant Clinical Immunologist, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle


MD, MSc, PhD(DSc), FRCPath

Previous Positions

2006-2011 Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University

2004-2006 Clinical Senior Lecturer and PI (temporary, p/t, 1d/week), Rheumatology Department, School of Clinical
Medical Sciences, The Medical School,University of Newcastle
2002-2005 Honorary senior Clinical Lecturer, School of Health Sciences
University Durham
1996-2005 CONSULTANT IMMUNOLOGIST, HoD, Immunology Department
The James Cook University Hospital, South Tees NHS Trust,Middlesbrough
1996-2004 TEMPORARY/HONORARY LECTURER, The Medical School, University of
1993 PROFESSOR IN PATHOPHYSIOLOGY/IMMUNOLOGY, Military Medical Academy & The Medical School University of Belgrade
1990 INTERNAL & EXTERNAL EXAMINER FOR BOARD EXAMINATION IN CLINICAL IMMUNOLOGY, PhD & MSc degrees, Military Medical Academy & The Medical School, University of Belgrade
1988 ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR (SENIOR LECTURER) IN PATHOPHYSIOLOGY & IMMUNOLOGY, Military Medical Academy & The Medical School, University of Belgrade,
1988 CONSULTANT IN CLINICAL IMMUNOLOGY, Military Medical Academy, Belgrade
1985 LECTURER IN IMMUNOLOGY, Military Medical Academy & The Medical School, University of Belgrade


- FRCPath, membership on the basis of published works, November 2004
- Member of the RCPath International Committee
- Member of UK Primary Immunodeficiency Network (UK PIN)
- Member of Committee for Producing Guidelins, UK PIN
- Member of the British Society for Immunology (BSI)/ North East Immunology Club (Chairperson 97/98, 98/-99 & 99/00)
- Member of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI)
- Member of the British Paed Immunol and Infect Diseases Group
- Member of the European Society for Immunodeficiency Diseases (ESID)
- etc.

Honours and Awards

National Bronze Clinical Excellence Award (2008-2013)


Serbian (mother tongue), english, spanish, danish

Research Interests

Rare patients with a primary immune deficiency coined Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis (CMC) suffer selectively with persistant, diasabling candidiasis of the skin and mucosa and as such present a unique opportunity for understanding fundamental mechanisms involved in fungal protection in humans. We have recruited a significant number of these rare patients whom we look after in our specialized NHS Candida clinics. In these patients, our research over the last few years has made two significant breakthroughs:


In a subgroup of patients with CMC who have the Autoimmune PolyEndocrinopathy Candidiasis Ectodermal Dystrophy (APECED) syndrome and the AIRE gene mutation, we reported anti-cytokine antibodies to Th-17 cytokines (IL-17A, IL-17F and IL-22), elucidating for the first time how the autoimmunity links in with impaired handling of Candida


In a another subgroup of these patients who have CMC associated with hypothyroidism, we reported for the first time significant defects in Th-17 cell proliferation and IL-17 production which likely underlie the inability of these patients to clear Candida infections. In these same patients, we recently we demonstrated a mutation in the STAT1 gene affecting crucial signalling pathways involved in cytokine production.


Our current work focuses on elucidating the mechanisms involved through which the mutation leads to defective IL-17 production



Academic activities

Conducting research and obtaining funding as Principle Investigator on multiple research grants

·         Over 10 years ago, at Newcastle University I set up research into Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis (CMC), a rare human primary immune deficiency disease without a know underlying cause, as a model to study basic immune mechanisms involved in protection against fungi

·         Our research proposed and documented novel pathogenic mechanisms and gene defects of this disease which are now regularly cited by virtually all authors in this field

·         Our findings have been or are in the process of being translated into diagnostic tests 

·         Thanks to my dual role as both a scientist and medical doctor, I have gathered one of the largest cohorts of these rare patients in the world, which hugely increases the significance of our findings

·          My work is well known nationally and internationally; I have been approached by and collaborate with the most renown scientist in this field (J-L Casanova, H’opital Necker, Paris, MG Netea, Nijmeegen University, Holland, B Grimbacher, Royal Free, London); I collaborate closely with colleagues in Newcastle and UK (GP Spickett, AJ Gennery, M Abinun, W-F Ng, DA Young)

·         To complement my scientific research in candidiasis, at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, I have recently set up specialised “Candidiasis” clinics where I see patients with chronic Candida infections. This is the only such clinic in the UK and I receive referrals from all over the country as well as numerous patient phone and email enquiries

·         We have set up a UK National Registry / Database for patients with CMC as part of UK-PIN (Primary Immunodeficiency Network)

·         Our investigations are a prime example of translational research where uncovering fundamental scientific mechanisms is directly relevant for understanding human disease

·         All of the above research has been funded by research grants I obtained as Principle Investigator (see list in CV)

·         Our research, some of which very recent, has been published in the highest ranking journals in the field of Clinical Immunology (see list in CV)


Clinical / NHS Activities

As a Consultant Clinical Immunologist, I am Head of the Laboratory and Clinical Immunology Department I recently set up at the University Hospital of North Durham (UHND), in the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT)

1.      Laboratory Immunology Services

·         At UHND I set up an independent Immunology Department  “de novo” in 2005

·         The Immunology laboratory has passed a rigorous national inspection and has been awarded (2007) and maintains (inspections 2009 & 2011) full Clinical Pathology Accreditation (CPA)

·         We have taken back all immunology requests previously referred and are now performing a full spectrum of immunology tests

·         We have recently taken on a substantial quantity of tests from other regional laboratories and are offering certain regionally unique tests


2.      Clinical Immunology / Allergy Services

·          Two years ago I set up a new, outpatient, pilot Allergy / Immunology clinics at UHND

·          The service has been exceptionally successful as judged by patient feedback

·          This is the only such service outside of Newcastle in the Region

·          The Regional Immunology Department, RVI in Newcastle and the Immunology / Allergy Clinical Immunology Service at UHND in Durham are now in the process of negotiating a regional “Clinical Immunology Network”


 1.      Esteem Indicators

Invited Speaker

·         UK Primary Immunodeficiency Network, December 2011

·         Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, November 2011

·         Microbiology / Pathology Department, JCUH, South Tees Hospitals, November 2011

·         European Bone Marrow Transplantation Workshop, October 2011

·         British Society for Medical Mycology, April 2011

·          European Society for Immune Deficiency, XIV Meeting, October 2010

·         British Society for Medical Mycology, August 2010

·         Primary Immunodeficiency Day. Great Ormond Street London (June 2009)

·         Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, NCL-UK/China collaboration (May 2009)

·         Valedictory Symposium for Professor Nick Willcox, Waldham College, Oxford (January 2009)

·         2nd European Federation for Immunological Societies (EFIS) meeting, Belgrade, Serbia (September 2008)

·         European Society for Immunodeficiency (ESID) Summer School, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina  (September 2008)

·         1st Jordanian Clinical Immunology Conference, Amman, Jordan, 2005

·         Invited Lecture, School of Medicine, Belgrade, Serbia, 2005

·         International Symposium on Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases, Debrecen, Hungary, 2002

·         Forward genetics of infectious diseases: immunological impact, Foundation des Treilles, Tourtour, France, 2002

International /  national expert on CMC

·          Grants reviewer (MRC Senior Clinical Fellowships, MRC Career Development Awards, DoH Grampian NHS, Primary Immunodeficiency Association Charity, etc)

·          Member of Editorial boards for professional / scientific journals (J Clin Cell Immunol, ISRN Immunology)

·          Reviewer of scientific papers for professional journals (J Immunol, J Allergy Clin Immunol, Eur J Immunol, Clin Exp Immunol, Clin Immunol, Infect Immun, etc)

·          International evaluator for National Project proposals for the Ministry of Science in Serbia

·          Expert assessor for the National Accreditation of the Medical School in Belgrade, Serbia, 2008

·          I am invited to write reviews for professional journals and books (Current Opin Microbiol 2012, Curr Opin Immunol 2010, Immunity to Fungal Pathogens 2007, Curr Opinion Infect Dis 2002, J Clin Path 2001)

·          Clinical Knowledge Summaries / PRODIGY expert advisor on fungal treatment

·          Expert advisor for the Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis website (www.candida.org)

·          I am member of the UK-PIN (Primary Immunodeficiency Network) expert working party for guidelines on CMC

·          Medico-Legal expert



·         For my achievements I was awarded the National Bronze Clinical Excellence Award (CEA) in 2008



2011-2014       Interleukin-17 signalling pathways triggered by Candida recognition in patients with chronic

                        mucocutaneous candidiasis (MRC grant in prep, collaboration with Professor AD Rowan)

2010-2013       Interleukin-17 signalling pathways triggered by Candida mutants (PhD scholarship: UK-China Scholarships for Excellence (named candidate form Nanjing University, 65K)

2007-09           iNKT cells in organ-specific and systemic autoimmune disease (JGWP, 48K)

2006-07           Dendritic cell TLR signalling pathways in CMC (PFIZER, 10K)

2004-06           Dendritic cells in Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis (PIA, 98K)

1999-04           Anti-CCP antibody in the diagnosis of RA (CULLYER, 20K)

1996-00           Immune responses in Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidasis (Action Research, 156K)

1994-95           Antibody classes and subclasses in Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis (NYHRA, 16K)

Cytokine production in Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis (NYHRA, 25K)


Undergraduate Teaching

1.      Teaching on Immunology/Clinical Immunology modules as Fellow of Graduate School (since 1993, P/T 2d/week (4Pas) on voluntary basis):

·         Clinical and Paediatric Immunology RCP/RCPath/RCPCH SpR training days (since 2003 annually)

·         MRES Applied Immunobology (since 2007 )

·         Supervision of Sponsored Visiting Post-doctoral researcher in UK/China scholarships for excellence programme (2007-8)

·         MBBS (1995-2003, 6 lectures + 3 seminars, annually)

·         Microbiology & Medical Microbiology (since 1997-2002, 9 lectures + 3 seminars, annually)

·         Biomedical Sciences (2003-2006 ,9 lectures + seminar, annually)

·         Pharmacology (2004-2006 2 lectures + seminar, annually)

·         Marking essays and other exam papers over the years for all of the above courses

·         Postgraduate student supervisor & assessor (PhD, RAs, Mphil, MD)

·         Undergraduate student supervisor (Microbiology & Medical Microbiology laboratory and literature projects; BMedSci / BSc students)

·         PhD external examiner

·         MBBS internal examiner (vivas)

·         BMedSci Honors internal examiner

·         As part of the Newcastle University MBBS expansion programme, I co-jointly set up and delivered (2001-2008) a 30 credit MBBS Immunology module at Durham University (repeatedly scored best module of this Stage)