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Researchers mourn allergy pioneer Euan Tovey

Researchers mourn allergy pioneer Euan Tovey

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

The Woolcock is mourning the loss of one of its Distinguished Alumni, Associate Professor Euan Tovey, who passed away on June 28.

A/Prof Tovey was a Research Leader at the Woolcock from the late 1980s through to his retirement in 2015, an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, and was inducted into the Asthma NSW Hall of Fame.

He was a dedicated allergy researcher, particularly of the house dust mite, with a keen interest in investigating and inventing asthma and allergy devices.

According to Woolcock Deputy Director A/Prof Brett Toelle, he was an inspiration to other researchers.

“Euan was the quintessential scientist who found everything interesting, and he would put forward innovative hypotheses to investigate,” A/Prof Toelle said.

“Those of us lucky enough to have worked with Euan got to experience many of his inventions.”

During his early career, A/Prof Tovey worked at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital before travelling to the UK to work at the Clinical Research Centre, Northwick Park. After returning to Australia, he completed his PhD at the Kolling Institute before joining the Central Clinical School at the University of Sydney to work with Ann Woolcock. He was at the heart of the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, which later became the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

A/Prof Tovey was one of the leading authorities in the world on allergen avoidance. His research was key to understanding how humans are exposed to allergens derived from house dust mites and was integral to efforts to mitigate and prevent asthma by reducing exposure to house dust mites in beds and in the home.

His interests also expanded to include designing housing for better health and measuring airborne hazards such as fungi and viruses. He became the “go to” person on measuring and characterising inhaled particles and in the past few years contributed important work on mechanisms of aerosol spread of respiratory viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

A/Prof Tovey’s inquisitive and innovative mind was evident in his long list of patents and his invention and development of many novel mechanisms and devices to both measure and reduce exposure to allergens.

Woolcock Research Leader Professor Guy Marks described him as an original thinker with the ability to turn his ideas into reality.

“Euan’s breadth of vision, his imagination and capacity for original thought, his ingenuity, his humility, and his generous and collaborative spirit earned him the respect of all who knew and worked with him,” Prof Marks said.

“He was guided by data and evidence rather than by conventional wisdom or dogma. Unlike many other original thinkers, Euan had the capacity to turn his ideas into actual devices and machines. He had an extraordinary ability to make things.

“He was a positive influence on all those around him: from his role as research leader at the Woolcock; on the Board of the Asthma Foundation of NSW; or in mentoring young, and not so young, investigators he encountered both in Sydney and around the world.

“He will be sadly missed by his many friends and colleagues.”

A/Prof Tovey is survived by his wife Libby Gleeson AM, his daughters Amelia, Josephine and Jessica, their spouses/partners, and four grandchildren.

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