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Prof Fabienne Mackay and her team discovered the role of a very important factor, named BAFF, in health, but also in autoimmune diseases. These findings were described in very highly cited articles and provided the knowledge foundation for the development of a novel therapy called belimumab (Benlysta), which is now approved for the treatment of patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and is the first new treatment for SLE in more than 50 years.

Professor Mackay’s group is focusing on inhibitors for the BAFF receptor TACI to treat SLE and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) without compromising key immune function.

She has published more than 184 articles and cited 18,500 times. Her h-index is 65. She has published the world’s most highly cited work on BAFF; her landmark study on the role of BAFF in SLE has been cited 1025 times.

Professor Fabienne Mackay studied Medicine and Biomedical Engineering before she obtained her PhD in Molecular Biology and Immunology from Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France.

Prior to that, in 1994, she started her research career in the biotech industry at Biogen Inc. in Boston. She then arrived in Australia in 1999, when she joined the Garvan Institute in Sydney and became Director of the Autoimmunity Research Unit. In 2009, she was recruited as Head of the Department of Immunology at Monash University. In 2015, she became the inaugural Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences and Head of the Department of Pathology in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Prof Mackay is the 8th Director and CEO of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Queensland.