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Warwick Britton - TLM Hero

A man in glasses and a burgundy sweater smiles at the camera
© Daniel Christiansz

Warwick Britton’s longstanding interest in the control of tuberculosis and leprosy began in 1971 when as a 5th year medical student, he undertook an elective period in Thailand.

After finishing his medical training at the University of Sydney then Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Warwick and his wife, fellow physician Annette Britton, travelled to Nepal in 1978.

The pair spent the next three years working at the Tansen Mission Hospital, 300 kilometres outside the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. With a young son in tow and another born during their stay, Warwick and Annette worked as rural doctors in a 100-bed hospital serving about 2 million people.

It was here that Warwick’s interest in mycobacterial infections, the most notable of which are Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae, took off.

When he returned to Sydney Australia, Warwick undertook a PhD on the immunology of leprosy with Professor Tony Basten at the Clinical Immunology Research Centre, University of Sydney (CIRCUS), identifying six new antigens of Mycobacterium leprae.

With three children in tow, the couple returned to Nepal in 1986 and established the Mycobacterial Research Laboratory at Anandaban Leprosy Hospital, Kathmandu. For the next four years Warwick facilitated studies to improve the management of leprosy and their fourth child, a daughter, was born.

In 1990 the Britton family returned to Sydney Australia where Warwick was appointed to the University of Sydney as a Senior Lecturer in Immunology. He also worked as a consultant clinical immunologist at RPA and was appointed Head of the Mycobacterial Research Group at the Centenary Institute.

Warwick was appointed Bosch Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney in 2002 and Professor of Immunology in 2006. In 2004 he was awarded the prestigious RPA Foundation Medal for Research Excellence. Throughout his career, Warwick has also established himself as a leading expert on tuberculosis, which has formed a significant part of his working life.

His exemplary work was acknowledged when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for “distinguished service to medical research as an academic and immunologist, to humanitarian and public health improvements for the people of Nepal, and to the community”.

Despite retiring from his numerous positions at the University of Sydney in 2019, Warwick is currently collaborating on community control of TB and leprosy in Kiribati, having maintained his longstanding interest in leprosy.

Since 1990, Warwick has participated in and chaired Medical Reference Panels for The Leprosy Mission International, chaired the TLMI research committee and, since 2017, served on the TLMI Board of Trustees.