Supporting knowledge exchange between Newcastle and Serbia

Desa and Mario are Medical Consultants now retired, having worked for Newcastle University and the NHS for 25 years in the field of clinical immunology. The married couple decided to establish a Fund to support a knowledge exchange between Newcastle and their home country of Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia). This is their story.

We began our careers in Yugoslavia, where there was a vibrant and bustling immunology community. We performed the first bone marrow transplant for a child with severe combined immunodeficiency to ever take place in Yugoslavia. And we were part of the prestigious Yugoslav Immunology Society, spearheaded by Professor Mirko Simic.

Sadly, we had to leave Yugoslavia due to the conflict that was taking place and relocated to Newcastle in 1992. A lot of our colleagues from the Society, now renowned immunologists throughout the world, did the same, which left a gap in knowledge and research in our home country.

The Fund is mainly aimed at people from Serbia to come and establish new contacts, gain knowledge and expertise, but there is also a great opportunity for people from Newcastle and North East hospitals to go to Serbia to organise workshops, to establish quality control procedures in diagnostic laboratories and to improve the quality of the work that’s being done over there.

Medical student

There's nothing more worthwhile investing in as knowledge. By supporting research at Newcastle, we're planting a seed that will continue to's an investment for our future.

Desa Lilic and Mario Abinun

Working in Newcastle, we’ve had the opportunity to combine clinical work and research. It’s so important to integrate these two ways of working, to join up the lab work and the practical relationship with patients. The world is now waking up to this way of working, but Newcastle is already a step ahead. That’s what we like about Newcastle: it’s not catching up, it’s leading the way.

With these rare disorders, you’ll have a single child come in with something that’s unknown and you work on it from a medical point of view, but the importance of the research is to discover what’s wrong and how to fix it. By knowing that, you can treat the patient most effectively and cure diseases.

Over the past 20 years, the depth of knowledge gained by studying rare diseases, particularly in the field of immunology, has been extraordinary. The importance of rare diseases is fully appreciated by Newcastle University as was recently highlighted by the establishment of NuCoRE for Rare Diseases lead by Professor David Jones.

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