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Personal profile

Research interests

My research focus is to understand the course of the immune response against virus infections and which characteristics play a role to protect against or control virus infections. To this end, we analyse quantitative as well as qualitative aspects of the cellular immune response at the level of antigen-presentation, immunodominance, and recognition by T cells. In addition, we perform in vitro studies to unravel the mechanisms underlying proper immune control.

We aim to elucidate differences related to 1) antigen-presentation by different HLA-molecules, 2) peptide properties presented by these HLA molecules and 3) features of T-cells restricted through different HLA-molecules with respect to function, phenotype and T cell receptor repertoire. Together, these studies will provide insight in features of T cells which are important for viral control (correlates of protection), which is crucial to improve vaccination strategies to induce proper immune responses for viral control.  

My current mission is to translate immunological correlates of protection from the individual patient to the population level enabling better vaccination strategies to protect against viral disease.

To this end I aim to bridge different public health related fields by using immunological knowledge and principles to address existing and future public health issues. This includes aging-related enhanced risk for infectious diseases, lifestyle and behavioral influences on immunological properties which may enhance the risk for infectious disease and reduce vaccine response.

To understand differences in immune responses at the population level, we will focus specifically on features that determine the effectiveness of the immune response, among which age, gender and genetic differences play a role as well as specific parts of the immune response like the available repertoire of immune cells. Previous encounters with micro-organisms can affect the immune repertoire and may influence the efficacy of the immune response. We aim to characterize the influence of previous encounters with vaccines and pathogens (infection history), including (coinfection with) specific herpesviruses, but also micro-organisms present in the intestine (gut microbiome) or airways on the immune response against new pathogens/infections or vaccines.

In relation to ageing and with a focus on healthy ageing and protecting the elderly population against infections, I initiated projects on the role of gut microbiome on respiratory infections and vaccine response in the young and old to identify microbial biomarkers of disease and vaccine response and set up model systems to unravel the causal pathways. In addition, in-depth analyses are performed on the role Cytomegalovirus on ageing and subsequent health consequences. Most recently, I  initiated an international consortium to study all aspects of Vaccines and infectious diseases in the aging population (VITAL), including epidemiology, immunology, modelling interventions and their impact, and communication programs, which was granted IMI funding within the H2020 EU program and started in January 2019. As part of this IMI grant we will perform a clinical vaccine study to identify biomarkers and immune signatures associated with (healthy) ageing and proper vaccine response. This is also part of the studies we are currently conducting in fril diseased patients in the context of SARS-CoV2 vaccination.

Network

Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or
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