Professor Ranjeny Thomas leads the Autoimmune disease and restoration of tolerance group.

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


  • 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 The University of Queensland's Frazer Institute, Translational Research Institute, consultant Rheumatologist at Princess Alexandra Hospital and fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. In 2020 she was awarded Member of the Order of Australia. She has founded two spin-off companies Dendright (2006-2021), and Liperate in 2022.

Her research seeks to understand autoimmune disease and restoration of immune tolerance. Through this work, she developed dendritic cell-based citrullinated antigen-specific immunotherapy in the first proof-of-concept trial in Rheumatoid Arthritis. She then developed a liposome immunotherapy that targets dendritic cells to induce antigen-specific tolerance, opening new opportunities for the control and prevention of autoimmune disease. Dendright progressed a liposome-based tolerance strategy for rheumatoid arthritis to a phase I trial, and Liperate is planning to open a trial of a liposome-based tolerance strategy for type 1 diabetes in 2024. She has contributed major insights into immune tolerance mechanisms and interaction between microbiome and the immune system to trigger or control spondyloarthropathy.