Wouter A.A. de Steenhuijsen Piters


Research areas of interest: Microbiota, Vaccine responses, Immunology, Host-pathogen interactions



Leiden University Medical Center  |  Leiden University Center for Infectious Diseases

Education and Research background  

I studied medicine and gained clinical experience working as a resident in paediatrics and in pulmonology. I received my PhD from the University of Utrecht where I worked on the characterisation of the bacterial communities (‘microbiota’) residing in the respiratory tract and how these microbiota were related to respiratory infections. Through this work, I discovered my enthusiasm for data science. I expanded my data science repertoire during a postdoctoral position where I worked with others investigating associations between early-life viral infections and the development of mucosal immunity as well as respiratory microbiota. In addition, I also assessed mother-to-infant transmission of microbes. During this time, I also invested part of his time in education and developing (online) workshops on microbiome data analyses and supervising masters and PhD students. In 2023, I decided to shift gears and joined the research group of Professor Maria Yazdanbakhsh at Leiden University Medical Center.

My work on immune responses to vaccines

I am currently involved in the ‘Reversing vaccine hyporesponsiveness’ (REVERSE) project where I am working on characterising the immune system of vaccine hyporesponders using single-cell technologies. Through data integration approaches, I will identify shared as well as population-specific pathways associated with low vaccine performance. In the next phase of the project, known immunomodulatory compounds will be used to target these pathways, with the aim of boosting an individual’s immune response to vaccines. In addition, I am interested in how lifelong microbial exposures preceding the moment of vaccination affect vaccine responses.

beyond research

Although I like to boulder (form of climbing), I have never climbed an actual mountain. Apart from bouldering, I also like to play board games and birdwatching.