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Sadly, NDS has to report that Derek Hart, one of the department's distinguished DPhil students who subsequently became Professor of Transplantation and Immunotherapy at the University of Sydney in Australia, has passed away. Professor Christopher Winearls has written his obituary.

Derek hart

Derek Hart died on 12 December at home in Sydney Australia of metastatic cancer. He worked to the end and kept his illness private lest the momentum of the projects be lost. He had made major scientific and clinical contributions, particularly in relation to his special interest in dendritic cells (DC), immune therapies and bone marrow transplantation (BMT).

He joined Professor Peter Morris and the NDS in 1976 on a New Zealand Rhodes Scholarship to Brasenose College. His work on the tissue distribution of antigens relevant to the immune response was supervised by Dr (now Professor) John Fabre. This work led to the discovery of interstitial dendritic cells. He was awarded his D.Phil. in 1980. He also played rugby for the University of Oxford, but was injured by a lorry on the Woodstock Road just outside the Radcliffe Infirmary when he stepped off the pavement to allow an old lady to pass. His shoulder was broken just a few days before the Varsity match against Cambridge and so he was never awarded the honour of a “Blue”.

He was a talented researcher, extremely energetic and very much a “full glass” person. He formed a close working relationship with Dr Judy McKenzie who had also come to England to work under Professor Morris in the NDS. After returning to Christchurch in New Zealand and training as a clinical haematologist, he became Director of the Christchurch Clinical Haematology Unit and BMT Unit and left it with a significant research reputation, including UK MRC trial participation. He was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia.

He moved to Brisbane where he completed 11 years as the inaugural Mater Medical Research Institute Director establishing it as an internationally recognised institute with a strong translational programme, including clinical cell therapy trials. His leadership helped create the new Queensland Translational Institute. He moved to the University of Sydney in 2010 to establish the DC Biology and Therapeutics Group at the ANZAC Research Institute and to undertake translational collaborative research projects at the Royal Prince Alfred, Westmead and Concord Hospitals. 

He worked closely with Dr Georgina (known to all as George) Clark whom he had first met when he examined her PhD thesis from Melbourne. George also came to the NDS from Melbourne as a post doc in 1989 and worked with Dr Maggie Dallman (later Professor Dallman at Imperial) for several years. George and Derek were married in 1996 and had two children, Olivia who is at university reading English and James who is at school. Derek worked too hard to indulge his passions which were sailing yachts and seeking out the best New Zealand and Australian wines. He maintained his Oxford links and did a sabbatical here in the Institute of Molecular Medicine.

He was a loyal friend, godfather to my son Stuart and great company. He will be missed by his many friends and the scientific community.

Christopher Winearls D.Phil., FRCP

NDS 1975-1979

Associate Professor of Medicine, Oxford University