Associate Professor Darshi Ramanathan is an adult neurologist and clinician-scientist, and heads the Translational Neuroimmunology Group at the University of Sydney. She leads a basic science and clinical research program in autoimmune neurological disorders.
Many neuroimmunological conditions have the potential to result in devastating disability, including blindness, paralysis, seizures, and cognitive impairment. However, it is increasingly recognised that expedited diagnosis, and the institution of early and appropriate immunotherapy can result in improved outcomes. A/Prof Ramanathan’s research program aims to improve our understanding of underlying disease pathogenesis with a focus towards ‘precision medicine’ in neuroimmunology – both with diagnosis and therapeutics. Her research focuses on defining the clinical, radiological, and immunophenotypic profiles of specific pathogenic autoantibodies; understanding what triggers autoimmunity and disruption of immune tolerance; and the cellular and humoural mechanisms of action of autoantibodies and how this might be translated into refining novel therapeutic approaches. Her work thus far has resulted in the enhanced recognition of novel treatable neurological conditions, important biological insights into the pathophysiology of these disorders, and the development of diagnostic criteria and therapeutic approaches to improve outcomes in vulnerable patients who otherwise risk chronic disability.
She is a Staff Specialist Neurologist at Concord Hospital in Sydney, and works in one of the largest national multidisciplinary neuroimmunology clinics, where she diagnoses and treats patients with neuroimmunological disorders. She also provides transitional care for adolescents with these conditions progressing from paediatric to adult neurology services. Her subspecialty clinical and research focus includes antibody-mediated neurological disorders such as myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein antibody-associated disease (MOGAD), neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, autoimmune encephalitis, autoimmune muscle disease, paraneoplastic neurological disorders, and inflammatory neuropathies; as well as multiple sclerosis.
A/Prof Ramanathan completed her NHMRC funded PhD at the University of Sydney. She was subsequently awarded the NHMRC Neil Hamilton Fairley Early Career Fellowship. During this time she completed a two year senior postdoctoral fellowship in Oxford with the Autoimmune Neurology Group at the John Radcliffe Hospital and University of Oxford, with a focus on neuroscience and B cell immunology; as well as gaining clinical expertise by working with the national UK referral autoimmune encephalitis and neuromyelitis optica services. She returned to Sydney to set up her independent translational research program in 2020, and has since been awarded an NHMRC Investigator Grant (EL2).
In 2013, A/Prof Ramanathan established and has since been the lead investigator of the Australasian MOGAD Study Group, a national collaboration involving over 150 clinicians from over 45 centres, evaluating over 700 children and adults with this condition. This collaborative platform continues to lead international research in the field. She co-leads an international collaboration studying 200 patients with LGI1-antibody autoimmune encephalitis to develop therapeutic guidelines. A/Prof Ramanathan leads a research team of PhD and Masters candidates, postdoctoral fellows, and clinician researchers, who undertake a translational research program in neuroimmunology.