Department of Biomedical Engineering


The human immune system is highly multifaceted and incredibly fascinating. Immune cells typically act in complex microenvironments which has important implications for immunotherapy. The high level of plasticity is achieved by a wide range of signalling molecules, cell types and specialized subtypes. Successful immunotherapy against cancer, auto-immune and infectious diseases is the result of a multitude of cellular interactions within the immune system.

The core challenge of my group is a systems immunology approach to develop and apply innovative engineering tools to study the immune system in health and disease, and to create new or improve existing therapies by enhancing or modulating immune responses.

Innovative tools to study the immune system

Much of the heterogeneity that we observe is thought to originate or at least be influenced by signals from the microenvironment. Measuring the influence of environmental factors on cellular heterogeneity and investigating regulatory strategies of cell populations, however, is difficult with traditional methods as they do not give much opportunity for the control or design of the microenvironment. We exploit and develop an innovative single cell technology toolbox to fill the technology gap by enabling the compartmentalization of single cells or small groups of cells in chambers or droplets. This allows for the design of minimal environments under the omission of most external factors that could influence cellular behaviour. Similarly, complex artificial microenvironments can be designed and created to assess the behaviour of single cells in response to e.g. soluble messengers or number of potential interaction partners. With this immune circuit engineering approach, we believe that probing cellular heterogeneity and decoding immune cell-cell or cell-pathogen interactions longitudinally and in great detail will revolutionise the fields of immunology and cellular immunotherapy. Studying immune interactions at the level of individual cells is the only way to unambiguously elucidate which cellular properties correlate with distinct functions to enable the development of improved cellular immunotherapeutic strategies to battle diseases.

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