Professor Ken Beagley

Ken Beagley is a Professor of Immunology at Queensland University of Technology. He has worked in the areas of reproductive and mucosal immunology for the past 35 years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Newcastle prior to moving to QUT. His research interests focus on immunity to the sexually transmitted pathogen Chlamydia, which causes infertility in humans and koalas. Undetected infections cause inflammation that blocks the fallopian tubes/oviducts and impairs egg development in the ovaries in females and impairs sperm production in males. The aim of his research is to define and differentiate the mechanisms of immune-mediated tissue damage caused by chlamydial infection from the immune mechanisms that protect against chlamydial infection and to use this information to develop effective chlamydial vaccines. This work resulted in the development of the first vaccine to prevent chlamydial infections in koalas and a rapid in the field test to diagnose koala chlamydial infections.

This vaccine is currently being used to vaccinate young koalas in an isolated population, with a high incidence of chlamydial disease, at Elanora on the Gold Coast. The study is carried out in collaboration with Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. Two years into the study we have had 25 joeys born to vaccinated females, with both mothers and joeys still Chlamydia-free at 6-, 12- and 24- months post-vaccination. These results are extremely encouraging and suggest that vaccination of wild koalas against Chlamydia can potentially reverse population decline. The vaccine is currently undergoing registration by the APVMA so that it can be made available to vets and koala carers across Australia.

Prof. Beagley has more than 300 publications and over 14,000 citations. He is a member of multiple societies and has served as president of the International Society for Mucosal Immunology. He has supervised more than 30 PhD students in the past 10 years.