Russell Dale, MRCP PhD

Identification and treatment of autoimmune brain disease

Russell studied medicine at Leeds University in Yorkshire, graduated in 1992, and then trained in paediatrics in London hospitals then paediatric neurology mainly at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. He did some training at Queen Square in adult neuroimmunology and did his PhD in neuroimmunology at the Institute of Neurology London on autoantibody detection in autoimmune movement disorders. In 2006 he left for sunny Sydney and has worked at the University of Sydney and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead since 2006. His interests are neuroimmunology particularly autoantibody associated CNS disorders and treatment of those disorders. He also has an active clinical and scientific interest in movement disorders.

Interview with self (strange), 30 March 2014


How did you get interested in neuroimmunology?

When working at Great Ormond Street I saw some patients with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, and the literature at the time seemed sparse. I was most interested in how ADEM is different from multiple sclerosis. I continue to be interested in what is multiple sclerosis, or actually more interested in what is NOT multiple sclerosis! I am interested in all autoimmune and inflammatory brain disease now.


What are you most proud of in your research?

I remain most proud of one of my first papers trying to examine differences of ADEM from MS, published in Brain in 2000. It remains my most cited paper by a mile, and I had encouragement from Brian Neville, Kling Chong and Carlos de Sousa at Great Ormond Street. I am also very proud of Jehan Suleiman and Esther Tantsis who have recently been awarded their PhD under my supervision. I am very proud of their achievements, particularly as they did much of their PhD part time, and made sacrifices to achieve this standard.


What are your most important collaborations?

Fabienne Brilot is my most important collaboration. We head the neuroimmunology group together and between us supervise 7 postgraduate students currently. Fabienne is a basic science immunologist and we have great and often lively discussions! We have great fun, I hope we can continue to find funding to keep this going long term, but funding is tough, and our lab costs 230k+ a year to run. I am also fortunate to work in a very collaborative and encouraging department of neurology and my neurology colleagues tolerate my ideas and commentary (sometimes)…
I also have some great collaborators with Dr Manju Kurian and Prof Yanick Crow in the UK- they are academic neurogeneticists and they have helped explain some difficult patients.


How important is multi-centre collaboration?

Pretty much essential. That’s not to say you cannot answer important questions in a single centre, because you can. But you can have great fun doing collaborative research, and collect bigger data and deliver more definitive answers. Funding bodies expect collaborative research nowadays. I am returning from a working group on autoimmune encephalitis in the USA. It was great to meet many people working in the field, and particularly pleased at how much respect there was for each other. Almost everyone at the meeting had the same goal to ultimately improve the lives of people with neurological disability.


If you had one bit of advise for someone wondering if they can do research, what would it be?

If you are passionate about doing research and willing to work hard- GO FOR IT!


What is your favorite thing to do to relax?

I am happiest in the outdoors, preferably the mountains. The mountains bring peace and inspiration to me. In 2005 I took 6 months off, went travelling and spent 2 months in Nepal including walking to Everest base camp- the best bit of travel I have ever done.