Denise Doolan is a Professorial Research Fellow (Immunology of Infectious Diseases) and Deputy Director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University.


Denise Doolan is a Professorial Research Fellow (Immunology of Infectious Diseases) and Deputy Director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University (Cairns, Campus). Her research has focussed on developing novel immunotherapeutics and immunodiagnostics for complex pathogens that cause chronic diseases, using malaria (and more recently, other infectious diseases) as a model. She completed her PhD in Molecular Immunology in 1993 under the supervision of Michael Good at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, focusing on malaria vaccines. After graduating from her PhD, she was awarded a National Academy of Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship to work at the United States Naval Medical Research Center with Stephen Hoffman on malaria vaccine development. After appointments as Director of Basic and Preclinical Research & Development and then Scientific Director of the US Navy Malaria Program, she returned to Australia in 2007.

Back in Australia, she established the Molecular Vaccinology Laboratory at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, with the support of a Pfizer Australia Senior Research Fellowship, followed by a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship. In 2016, she relocated to the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University (Cairns Campus) and in 2018 was awarded a NHMRC Principal Research Fellowship.

Denise is an outstanding scientist with >150 publications, which have attracted >7,000 citations, a h-index of 47 and an i10-index of 111. She has received >$20 million in research funding over the course of her career including a sole CI on an NIH RO1 grant worth >USD$2.5M.

She is passionate about improving the health of the millions of people worldwide suffering from infectious and chronic diseases.  Much of her career has focused on malaria immunology and vaccine development and she has played a leading role internationally in driving the development and application of approaches to identify priority target antigens, molecules and immune mechanisms that can be targeted for intervention against malaria. More recently, she has moved into research that intersects infectious and chronic disease. Her research agenda encompasses core themes of (1) host-pathogen immunity, (2) antigen discovery, (3) vaccine engineering, and (4) biomarker discovery, using state-of-the-art genome-based technologies and human models of disease and is the subject of a current NHMRC fellowship entitled “System-based approaches to inform the design of vaccines and biologics against complex pathogens”. This project specifically will develop a pipeline of parasite antigens and immunomodulatory molecules that can be transitioned towards clinical development and testing, as well as identify biomarkers of disease risk that can be used for population-based screening to define at-risk individuals for targeted intervention.

Her track record in translating research is evidenced by 13 patent families (1 licensed; plus 2 pending) in vaccinology, immunology, and antigen discovery. Although her primary focus has been malaria, many of the technologies and strategies established for malaria can be applied to a range of public health threats.

Her scientific standing in the community is evidenced by being a regular plenary/keynote invited speaker for national and international conferences on diverse topics (malaria, vaccines, host-parasite immunity, infection-related cancers), including funded invitations to national and international meetings; in the past 3 years, invitations include Lausanne, Berlin, Mexico City, Yogyakarta (Indonesia), Singapore, Portugal, Seoul, and USA.

She has been invited to write and review for premier journals including Nature, Nature Immunology, Nature Medicine, Science, Immunity, PNAS, Cell Host Micro, Trends in Immunology and Advances in Biotechnology.

She also regularly serves on the scientific program committees for international and national meetings; including lead organizer of the XIX International Congress of Tropical Medicine (Brisbane, 2016). She has served on a variety of Senior Management Committees, including the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (2016 to present); QIMR Berghofer MRI Director’s Consultative Committee (2011-2015); QIMR Berghofer MRI Biology Dept Coordinator (2011-2015), Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Management Committee (2011-2015) and Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute Research Advisory Committee (2012-2014). She also serves on 4 Editorial boards and is currently Speciality Chief Editor for Frontiers in Immunology: Immunotherapies and Vaccines.

In addition to her scientific contributions to the field of Parasitology, Denise has also made significant contributions to the ASP. She served on the Executive Board of the Australian Society of Parasitology from 2010-2014 and was President for 2 years (2011-2013). In 2016, she was awarded the ASP Bancroft Mackerras medal for her contributions to Parasitology and the Society. Since 2016, Denise has served on the specialist editorial board for IJP.

In view of her outstanding contributions to science, parasitology and the society, Prof Denise Doolan is an extremely worthy recipient of the title, Fellow of the Australian Society for Parasitology.