Maria Yazdanbakhsh


Research areas of interest: Human immunology, Parasites, Immune modulation, Immune response to perturbations



Leiden University Medical Center  |  Leiden University Center for Infectious Diseases

Education and Research background  

My research interest in immunoparasitology was formed during my MSc at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My PhD in CLB, Amsterdam University, delved into the innate immune system focusing on granulocytes and their interaction with schistosomes. Through a Marie Curie fellowship, I did a post-doc at Imperial College London and familiarized myself with molecular biological methods to look at immunogenicity of vaccine candidates in filariasis. Then I moved to a faculty position at Department of Parasitology in Leiden University where, over the years, I set up wonderful collaborations with researchers in Indonesia, Gabon, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda and Tanzania. I am currently leading a group of clinicians and researchers form diverse backgrounds who work together and gain knowledge that can be applied to preventing or curing infectious diseases.

My work on immune responses to vaccines

My group tries to understand how exposure to microorganisms and parasites modulates the human immune system and its impact on vaccine response. We address this through collaborative field studies in rural and urban areas of low middle income countries or by conducting controlled infections in human volunteers. In such unique studies we analyse the peripheral blood as well as tissues (nasal and gut) using mass cytometry, spectral flow cytometry, imaging mass cytometry and RNA Sequencing (incl CITESeq). Data scientists/ computational immunologists and statisticians develop (and are developing) analyses pipelines that can be applied to complex datasets and to allow data integration. Through this work we aim to identify immune pathways that are amenable to manipulation in order to improve vaccine responses.

beyond research

I dream of reading books in a hammock with chilled beer/good wine while overlooking the Nangapanda sea, or the Ogooué river, waiting for temperature to drop to play tennis or ebike. Meanwhile, planning my visit to Holland Festival in June to soak the wonderful visual arts and music.