Professor Rodney Phillips FMed.Sci. MA (Oxon) MD (Melb) FRCP FRACP
Dean, UNSW Medicine
Professor Rodney Phillips is 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.
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 six 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 the third world.
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 four 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 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’ 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 Kwazulu Natal 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 University’s 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. He took up his current appointment as Dean of Medicine at UNSW Australia in mid-2015.