Research areas of interest: Systems immunology, Immune responses
Leiden University Medical Center | Leiden University Center for Infectious Diseases
Education and Research background
I studied biomedical sciences at Utrecht University, with the specialization of Infection and Immunity. After this, I obtained a PhD from Institut Pasteur in Paris in the group of Professor Michaela Muller-Trutwin. In terms of research experience, I also did a 9-month internship in the laboratory of Professor Jos van Strijp at Utrecht University, cloning, producing and purifying recombinant proteins from Staphylococcus aureus. It gave me a lot of respect for people who can do such work.
My second MSc internship was at Yerkes National Primate Center (Emory University in Atlanta in the United States) in the laboratory of Professor Guido Silvestri where I studied plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) activation during HIV infection with non-human primate models that are natural hosts of the virus and do not have chronic immune activation. My PhD was in the same field, but I also looked at DNA methylation and how this is affected by infection. I started a postdoctoral position in 2015 at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom working in the group of Professor Daniela Ferreira. My project was on setting up methods to study nasal immune responses in the setting of experimental human pneumococcal carriage. In 2019, I moved to Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) to learn how to use machine learning tools and multi-omics data integration methods.
My work on immune responses to vaccines
I study immune responses to infection and vaccination using multi-omics technologies amd focusing not just on the blood but also tissues. For example, together with Dr. Anna Roukens of the Department of Infectious diseases at the LUMC, we are performing fine needle aspirations of draining lymph nodes following pneumococcal vaccination. Using this tool, we can study the immune responses at the site where they are being induced. We are further comparing T cell-dependent and -independent formulations to delineate the effect of T cell help on induction of immunity. Future plans are to extend these analysis to vulnerable groups that respond less well to vaccines, for example people living with HIV.
We are also looking at mucosal responses and how these are induced by vaccination. For this investigation, we use minimally-invasive nasal sampling methods which we will apply to children after they have received the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). To go beyond descriptive analysis, we are currently also using organoid models to study interactions between the epithelium and T cells to understand tissue-resident memory establishment.
With 3 children, I have no time for hobbies, interests or pastimes! In terms of meeting famous people, the head of my PhD lab was a Nobel Prize-winning scientist (she discovered HIV). I also once took a photo with football trainer Guus Hiddink in the PSV stadium. I have not climbed any mountains but I have run a marathon, which is also tiring. I am expecting that Hypovax Global will be an interesting adventure!