Professor Elizabeth Phillips

About me

Professor Phillips is a Canadian trained internal medicine specialist with subspecialty qualifications in infectious diseases and clinical pharmacology and has a separate specialist pathology qualification in medical microbiology.

Prior to relocation to Australia, Professor Phillips had been head of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology affiliated with Sunnybrook & Women’s College Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto from 1999-2004 and Head of Clinical Pharmacology, Clinical Systems British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV and Associate Professor of Medicine, University of British Columbia. Clinical and research programs have focused on the pharmacogenetics and immunopathogenesis of drug hypersensitivity in HIV and non-HIV populations and other aspects of drug safety and HIV pharmacology and toxicity.

Professor Phillips’ research program defines the immunopathogenesis of drug hypersensitivity, the genetic determinants of efficacy and toxicity of HIV antiretroviral treatment as well as the pharmacokinetics of antiretroviral drugs in distinctive treatment populations. With regards to drug hypersensitivity, a clinical and biological database is being established to facilitate future research in this area.

Current work has focused on the immunopathogenesis and pharmacogenetics of drug hypersensitivity reactions related to antiretrovirals such as abacavir and nevirapine. This research program provides treatment strategies that incorporate not only pharmacogenetics to identify populations at risk for serious treatment toxicity or failure, but also apply pharmacokinetics as the phenotype to optimise and improve the short and long-term safety and efficacy of antiretroviral therapy.

Professor Phillips’ research has specifically focused on:

  • The immunogenetic basis of abacavir and other drug-induced hypersensitivity syndromes
  • The development of tests potentially useful in screening and diagnosis for drug hypersensitivity syndromes
  • Genetic testing and different technologies employable as screening tests and
  • Pharmacokinetic differences and correlates with liver pathology in hepatitis C co-infected populations.

Initial work on abacavir hypersensitivity involved exploration of in vitro and in vivo testing (epicutaneous patch) to define the immunopathogenetic basis of this reaction. Professor Phillips developed an in vivo cutaneous patch test to mirror the systemic reaction. (Phillips E et al AIDS 2002, AIDS 2005).

Professor Phillips was a consultant/investigator on two large pivotal clinical trials -  one based in Europe and one in the United States where the patch test was used as a primary outcome for the diagnosis of abacavir hypersensitivity reaction. She currently actively participates in international consortia/collaborations that will be crucial to define the pharmacgenomics of rare drug reactions with a high morbidity and mortality such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Recent articles and editorials she has authored have underscored the importance of this work and its applicability to clinical practice.

Further studies on the immune, genetic and metabolic basis for abacavir and other drug hypersensitivity syndrome are underway.