Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Desa Lilic

Associate Clinical Lecturer


Current Position

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


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 (UHND), 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:

In my dual role as an research active academic/principle investigator and a consultant clinical immunologist, I look 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:





Desa Lilic: Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant Immunologist




Chun M Chan: Research Associate



Tariq Al Shehri: PhD student



Ashleigh Rainy: Clinical Scientist trainee









Awards and external recognition

Invited Speaker

  • 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)



  • 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 (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)