Research projects

Research projects span from understanding dendritic cell function through analysis of signaling pathways, in vivo studies of tolerance, through to clinical trials of tolerance in autoimmunity, and clinical studies of risk factors in rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. 

  • Understanding the molecular control of dendritic cell function in tolerance
  • Pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, uveitis and arthritis in a mouse model of spondyloarthropathy: microbiota and the interaction with host immunity
  • Rheumatoid arthritis antigen-specific therapy: mouse models
  • Antigen-specific T cells in Rheumatoid Arthritis: MHC-peptide interactions with T cells
  • Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes novel treatments: mouse models
  • Type 1 diabetes biomarkers: human longitudinal study

Legacy

  • Dr Allison Pettit (PhD student): Senior Research fellow, Mater-UQ Research Institute, Brisbane.
  • Dr Kelli MacDonald (Post-doc): Group leader, QIMR, Brisbane.
  • Dr Athan Baillet (post-doc): Assistant chef de clinique, Rheumatologie, University Joseph Fourier-Grenoble, France
  • Dr Helen Benham (PhD student): Staff Rheumatologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Lecturer and Deputy Head of Southern Clinical School, University of Queensland
  • Dr Judy Peng (PhD student): Editor, Frontiers in Immunology, Germany.
  • Dr Angus Thompson (MBBS-PhD student): Consultant Cardiologist, Perth, Western Australia.
  • Dr Simone Zehntner (post-doc): Assistant Director and Research Associate, Small Animal Imaging Lab, McConnell Brain Imaging Center, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
  • Dr Fengxiao Zhang (fellow): Director of Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Hebei Provincial People's Hospital, China

Researcher biography

Professor Thomas' research is focused on the study of the biology and clinical use of human dendritic cells in autoimmune disease. It has explored basic mechanisms of immunity and dendritic cell function in autoimmune disease.

Professor Thomas is a graduate of the University of Western Australia. She received her MBBS in 1984, and then trained in Perth as a rheumatologist. She commenced a research fellowship with Peter Lipsky at Southwestern Medical Center, University of Texas in 1990, where she first identified and characterised human circulating dendritic cell precursors. She is now Professor of Rheumatology at University of Queensland, Translational Research Institute, consultant Rheumatologist at Princess Alexandra Hospital and fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

Her research is focussed on the study of autoimmune disease and restoration of tolerance. Through this work, she developed and tested the first rheumatoid arthritis vaccine. She has also contributed major insights into the pathogenesis of spondyloarthropathy and autoimmune diabetes, leading to the development of disease biomarkers and innovative immunotherapies. Ranjeny is founder and a director of the spin-off company, Dendright, which is developing antigen-specific (personalised) immunotherapy and companion biomarkers to prevent and treat rheumatoid arthritis. She is funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to develop antigen-specific immunotherapy for children with type 1 diabetes.

Areas of research