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Department of Microbiology and Immunology


Research profile

The department focuses on the study, prevention and treatment of important diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, the study of the complex host-microbiome interaction, and the study of the host immune system in infections, cancer, kidney diseases, autoimmunity, allergy and organ transplantation.

About the Department

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology consists of 15 laboratories and includes the Rega Institute. The Rega Institute has a long-standing expertise in technologies for microbiological, biochemical, immunological, and cell biological in silico, in vitro, and in vivo research with the use of animal models and clinical specimens. The central themes of microbiology (infections) and immunity (defence against infections) are intrinsically interlinked, providing opportunities for complementary research activities, and creating possibilities for applications in diagnostics and therapy of emerging and therapy-resistant infections, tumours, and autoimmune diseases.
As a department, we are committed to cutting-edge fundamental and clinical research, with as final aims the development of innovative diagnostics and therapeutic services that will benefit patients everywhere. We aspire to uphold the highest student-oriented standards of learning, education, and mentoring. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology wants to create an academic environment for its faculty, research staff and students that is collegial, productive, challenging, flexible, collaborative, motivating and supportive of career development.



Laboratory of Autoimmune Genetics

Adrian Liston

We are interested in the cellular and molecular basis of immune tolerance mechanisms and failure. We study the phenotype of immune pathology and use a ‘forward genetics’ approach of taking mouse strains with a genetic predisposition to immune pathology and then work out how this is controlled and why those genetic variations cause pathology.

Laboratory of Clinical Immunology

Rik Schrijvers

Our research focuses on tolerance against autoantigens and allergens. Why is tolerance lost at the initiation of disease and how can it be restored?  Special emphasis is put on the role of regulatory cells,  costimulatory signals and suppressive cytokines. We use  several animal models (autoimmune encephalitis, allergic asthma and colitis) and also study these aspects in human subjects with allergic and autoimmune diseases.

Experimental Laboratory Immunology

Xavier Bossuyt

• Study of the regulation of the immune response to Streptococcus pneumoniae
• Immunodeficiencies, with particular interest on innate immunity
• Autoimmunity, with particular interest on serological markers

Laboratory of Experimental Transplantation

Ben Sprangers

Our research addresses the immune mechanisms underlying organ allo- or xenograft tolerance or rejection, and the mechanisms underlying immune-mediated graft-versus-tumor effects of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation and post transplant adoptive cell therapy. The lab also investigates the development of new immunosuppressive small molecules in collaboration with the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry.

Laboratory of Clinical Infectious and Inflammatory Disorders

Willy Peetermans

The staff members are dedicated clinicians involved in the patient care of the General Internal Medicine Department, including Emergency Care and Intensive Care. Hence, the research efforts have tight links with clinical care and provide a dynamic interplay between bench and bedside.  Examples of topics include: hepatic critical care: detoxification devices and hemodynamics; cholestasis in the critically ill; clinical trials in sepsis, vasculitis syndromes and noninfectious inflammatory disorders; and fever of unknown origin.

Laboratory of Dermatoimmunology

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• Skin manifestations in systemic disease
• Clinical research and identification of contact allergens in cosmetic, pharmaceutical, household and industrial products
• Occupational dermatitis
• Screening of perfume allergens
• Multidisciplinary reference center for porphyrias
• Phototesting and action spectrum determination in photosensitive patients
• Identification of trigger factors in atopic dermatitis
• Atopy School
• Genodermatoses
• Multidisciplinary management of epidermolysis bullosa

Laboratory of Abdominal Transplantation

Jacques Pirenne

The Abdominal Transplant Surgery Lab conducts the following translational research projects:
Development of tolerogenic protocols to promote graft acceptance after  intestinal transplantation (in cooperation with the Laboratory of Experimental Transplantation).
Prevention/amelioration of ischemia reperfusion injury after liver, kidney, intestinal transplantation by improved preservation strategies (among them machine perfusion) and/or biological intervention.
The lab uses models of transplantation and/or ischemia reperfusion injury in rats and pigs. We perform and participate in randomized clinical trials.

Laboratory of Clinical Bacteriology and Mycology

Veroniek Saegeman

• Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis: biomarkers in ‘exhaled breath condensate’ for early diagnosis and diversity of pathogens involved
• Immunological and molecular interaction between the host and Candida Albicans biofilm.
• Genetics and mechanisms of biofilm formation by staphylococci
• Vaccines for prevention of staphylococcal biofilms and infections
• Aggregation as a new antimicrobial strategy

Laboratory of Virology and Chemotherapy (Rega Institute)

Dominique Schols

• New concepts for the therapy of human viruses, including HIV, hepatitis viruses, influenza viruses, emerging viruses, and tumour-inducing viruses
• Structure and function of new targets for antiviral and anticancer therapy, and mechanism of action of novel inhibitors
• Molecular basis for drug resistance
• Kinetics of drug-target interaction
• Pharmacology of new drug leads in cell culture and animal models

Laboratory of Molecular Bacteriology (Rega Institute)

Tassos Economou

• Characterization   of   protein   secretion   pathways   for   improved   protein   production   and identification of virulence factors
• Research on novel antibiotic and vaccine targets
• Studies to prevent/treat biofilm-related infections on biomaterials

Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology (Rega Institute)

Anne-Mieke Vandamme

• Study of the classical and molecular epidemiology of RNA and DNA viruses
• Development of new bioinformatics and molecular biological tools for virus discovery and analyses
• Investigation of in vivo virus evolution
• Investigation of therapy response in infected patients.

Laboratory of Immunobiology (Rega Institute)

Ghislain Opdenakker

• Proteinase research with a specific focus on matrix metalloproteinases and inhibitors
• Biology, biochemistry, and molecular medicine of proteinase cascades
• Technology development for novel microbial and host enzyme targets with specific focus on viral and malaria infections and autoimmune diseases and cancer
• High-throughput capillary electrophoresis platform for DNA sequencing and for peptide and inhibitor analysis

Laboratory of Molecular Immunology (Rega Institute)

Paul Proost

• Chemokine research, including biological and biochemical characterization, gene regulation, posttranslational processing
• The role of chemokines in (1) receptor-mediated signal transduction, (2) angiogenesis and leukocyte migration, and (3) synergy and antagonism in cancer, infection, and autoimmunity
• Mass spectrometry and protein sequencing (proteomics) for downstream processing of body fluids to determine the chemokine profile in disease

Laboratory of Nephrology

Dirk Kuypers

• Metabolomics to explore the gut-kidney axis: the contribution of kidney function to the elimination of co-metabolites originating from the gut microbiome.
• Bone metabolism in renal disease.
• A personalized immune mouse model in the exploration of human autoimmune diseases and transplantation alloimmune reactivity.
• Molecular studies to evaluate the interplay between non-immune factors and immunity in kidney transplantation and the impact on graft outcome.
• Translational clinical pharmacology and pharmacogenomics of immunosuppressive drug therapy in renal transplantation: interaction of the patient profile and non-invasive biomarkers of chronic allograft dysfunction.
• Exploring the role of the protective enzyme heme oxygenase-1 in the cardiovascular phenotype of chronic kidney disease.
• Cardiovascular disease in ESRD and renal transplantation.

Laboratory of Pediatric Immunology

Dominique Bullens

All programs are translational with basic science and clinical research
• Tumor immunology and tumor vaccination
• Stem cell immunology
• Auto-/uncontrolled inflammation,  auto-immunity and systemic disorders
• Immune deficiencies
• Allergy in childhood
• Environmental airway hyperreactivity


Contact Information

Department of Microbiology and  Immunology
Minderbroederstraat 10 blok x, box 1030
BE-3000 Leuven, Belgium

Head of the Department

Marc Van Ranst

tel. +32-16-347908

Departmental Manager

Jannick Verbeeck

tel. +32 479 609.324
      +32 16 379279