Institute of Cellular Medicine

Staff Profile

Dr Desa Lilic

Associate Clinical Lecturer


Current position                                                                                                                                                 

2017-2018       Associate Clinical Lecturer, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University

Qualifications and Background

MD, DSc/PhD, FRCPath

Consultant Clinical Immunologist, Senior Clinical Lecturer at Newcastle University

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)

Summary of previous posts (retired 31 January 2017):

2005-17  Consultant Clinical Immunologist & Head of Service, Immunology Department, University Hospital of North Durham, County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust, Durham (clinically qualified & clinically active)

2012-17       Clinical Senior Lecturer, Principle Investigator, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University        

1996-17   Hon Consultant Clinical Immunologist, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle

2006-11  Hon Clinical Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University,

2002-08   Hon Senior Lecturer in Immunology, Durham University, School of Health Sciences

2004-06 Senior Clinical Lecturer (P/T, temporary), School of Clinical Medical Sciences, Newcastle University

1999-2004 Honorary Clinical Lecturer, School of Microbiological, Virological and Immunological Sciences, Newcastle University

1996-99 Clinical Lecturer (P/T, temporary), School of Microbiological, Virological and Immunological Sciences, Newcastle University

1996    Consultant Clinical Immunologist & Clinical Director, Immunology Department, The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough

1994    Locum Consultant Clinical Immunologist, Newcastle General Hospital and Middlesbrough General Hospital

1993    Postdoctoral fellow, University of Newcastle

(1993   Moved from Belgrade, former Yugoslavia  to Newcastle, UK)

1993    Professor of Pathophysiology/Immunology, Military Medical Academy University, Belgrade

1988     Senior Lecturer in Pathophysiology/Immunology, Military Medical Academy University,


1988     Consultant Clinical Immunologist, Military Medical Academy, Belgrade

1985     Lecturer in Immunology, University Belgrade & Military Medical Academy, Belgrade


2013    Renewal of ACCEA National Clinical Excellence Award (Bronze)

2008    ACCEA National Clinical Excellence Award (Bronze)

2008    Affiliate membership of the Institute of Cellular Medicine

2004    Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists

2003    Fellow of Graduate School of The Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University

1988     Board Examination in Clinical Immunology (CCST-distinction award), The Medical School,

             University Belgrade, Yugoslavia

1987     Doctorate in Medical Sciences (PhD / DSc), The Medical School, University Belgrade

1980     Postgraduate Studies (MSc / PhD) in Experimental Medicine, Military Medical Academy & The Medical School, University Belgrade

1975     Medical Doctor  (MB BS-best student award), The Medical  School, University Belgrade,

             Yugoslavia & University Caracas, Venezuela


- 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.


Serbian (mother tongue), english, spanish, danish


Research Interests:

In my dual role as an research active academic/principle investigator and a consultant clinical immunologist, I looked after patients with Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis (CMC) that are also the focus of my research. These rare patients with this unusual primary immune deficiency (PID) suffer selectively with persistent, disabling candidiasis of the skin and mucosa and a variety of other autoimmune and inflammatory phenomenon which present an unique opportunity for understanding fundamental mechanisms involved in immune mediated diseases 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 several significant breakthroughs identifying the underlying pathogenic mechanisms in the 2 largest subgroups of these patients:

·         in the 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 the largest subgroup of CMC patients with  associated  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. Subsequently, in these same patients, we demonstrated a gain-of-function (GOF) mutation in the STAT1 gene affecting crucial signaling pathways involved in cytokine production.

Research themes:

·         Role of AIRE in the induction of tolerogenic dendritic cells

·         Molecular / biochemical mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of GOF-STAT1 disease

·         Role of GOF-STAT1 mutations in mediating enhanced effects of type I interferons

·         Role of enhanced indoleamine 2.3 dioxygenase (IDO) production in clinical presentation of GOF-STAT1 CMC

Key collaborators:

·         Dr Mario Abinun, Dr Andy Gennery, Consultants Paediatric Immunologists, Great North Children’s Hospital, RVI

·         Prof Drew Rowan, Prof David Young, Musculoskeletal Group, Dr Muzz Haniffa, Human DC Group; Jelena Mann and Derek M, Fibrosis Group; Prof Andy Mellor and Henrique de Paula Lemos, Inflammatory Disease and Immunotherapy Laboratory, ICM

·         Collaborations across Newcastle University: Institutes of Genetic Medicine, Ageing and Health, Cancer Research, Health and Society; Policy, Ethics And Life Sciences

·         UK-wide: Universities of Manchester, Oxford, London

·         Internationally: Harvard University, USA; Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherland; Hopital Necker, Paris, France; Tartu University, Estonia

Impact and Engagement:

Direct benefits to research participants & their families:

·         We have produced diagnostic tests for APECED patients and identified the gene mutation in patients with GOF-STAT1 mutations supporting timely treatment decisions, presymptomatic screening and genetic counselling

·         Specialist “Candida” clinics for the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients with PIDs and susceptibility to fungal infections (unique in UK)

Extending the benefits to a broader patient base - professional network:

·         European Society for Immune Deficiencies (ESID)

·         UK Primary Immunodeficiency Network (UK-PIN)

·         UK-PID charity (CMC patient information leaflet)

Raising awareness - outreach to primary/secondary care & the public:

·         Bubble Foundation

·         Jeffrey Modell Foundation

·         annual “Graham and jenny Watson” infection and immunity study days

Related websites:

Awards and external recognition

Invited Speaker

  • Debate controversy: Is GOF-STAT1 CMC an interferonopathy? ESID, September 11-14, 2017, invited speaker
  • Disease mechanisms underlying CMC, Nijmegen October 25-27, 2017, invited speaker
  • Gordon Research Conference (GRC): Immunology of Fungal Infections, January 2017
  • III Polish congress on autoimmune, autoinflammatory and primary immune deficiency diseases, Warsaw 19-21 February 2016
  • International immunity and autoimmunity workshop in honour of Marija Mostarica & Mija Lukic, Belgrade, May 2015
  • British Society of Dermatology, London, January 2015
  • J Project 100th Meeting (ESID), Antalya, Turkey, March 2014
  • 1st Educational PID Meeting, Sarajevo, October 2013
  • BSI summer school, Newcastle, August 2013
  • Therapeutic Tolerance Conference, Newcastle, July 2013
  • N4i Frontiers Symposium: Immunodeficiency from different angles, Nijmegen June 2013
  • Jeffry Modell PID Centre Launch Event, Newcastle November 2012
  • Northern Autoimmunity Education & Quality Assurance Group (NAEQAG), NCL, UK, September 2012
  • 3rd Symposium on Diagnosis and Therapy of Fungal Diseases, Belgrade, Serbia, March 2012
  • UK Primary Immunodeficiency Network (UK-PIN) Forum, Liverpool, UK, December 2011
  • Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, 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)

International /  national expert on Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis (CMC)

  • Grants reviewer (MRC (Senior Clinical Fellowships /MRC Career Development Awards / Research project grants), 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 (Blood, 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

  • 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)

  • Personal profile on British Society of Mycological Society (BMS) Map of Science home page


  • RCPath representative on interview panels for appointment of Consultant Immunologists

  • RCPath assessor of national ACCEA awards


Undergraduate Teaching

1.      Teaching on Immunology/Clinical Immunology modules as Fellow of Graduate School

·         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 assessor and 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)