2021- The enemy within

Dr. Birgitte Kornum 

University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark

Birgitte Rahbek Kornum did her post doctoral training at Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences in the lab of Dr. Emmanuel Mignot. During this time she was awarded the 2011 Young Scientist Award from the American Association of Sleep Medicine for her discovery of the association of P2RY11 with narcolepsy. In 2013, Dr. Kornum was awarded a Lundbeck foundation fellowship, and in 2015 she was elected member of the Young Academy of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
Dr. Kornum has a BSc degree in chemical engineering from the Danish Technical University (2000) and continued her training at University of Copenhagen, where she got a MSc degree in human biology (2003) and a PhD degree from the School of Neuroscience (2009). She has published >70 international peer reviewed papers, 6 book chapters, and 2 patent applications. Dr. Kornum is an associate professor at University of Copenhagen, where she is leading a research group of 10-12 people. Her overall scientific interest is to understand how the immune system affects the sleep regulating networks of the brain. In particular, she is interested in the hypocretin system, its involvement in sleep-wake neurophysiology and how it is affected by immune stimuli. In the neurologic sleep disorder narcolepsy, the hypocretin (hcrt, a neuropeptide also known as orexin) producing neurons in hypothalamus are lost, due to what is hypothesized to be an autoimmune attack on the neurons. Dr. Kornum has studied the details of the possible neuron-immune system interaction using patient samples, primary neuronal cultures, and animal models. Her current research is focused on elucidating the role of the hypocretin neurons during infections and in the sickness response, and for this the lab uses animal models, in vivo electrophysiology, molecular biology tools and single cell RNA sequencing.

The autoimmune hypothesis of narcolepsy type 1
In this talk Dr. Kornum will describe the sleep disorder narcolepsy and explain why the leading hypothesis is that the disease has an autoimmune origin. The talk will also explain the pros and cons of this hypothesis.

Prof. Dr. Anthonius de Boer

Utrecht University, Netherlands


Prof. Anthonius de Boer, MD, PhD was trained for three years in Internal Medicine followed by a PhD research period in clinical pharmacology. After his PhD graduation in 1990 he was appointed as assistant professor in Clinical Epidemiology followed by an associate professorship of pharmacotherapy. In 1994 he was registered as Epidemiologist and in 1996 as Clinical Pharmacologist. He was appointed in 2001 as professor of pharmacotherapy and director of the Pharmacy School. From 2007-2015 he was the head of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, from 2002-2014 he was a member of the Central Ethics Committee of the Netherlands and from 2014-2017 he was the chairman of the Drug Committee of the National Health Care Institute (ZIN). He is the chairman of the Board of the National Institute of Post-Academic Education of Pharmacy, chairman of the Certification Committee of the Dutch Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Biopharmacy, member of the Programme “Goed Gebruik Geneesmiddelen” of ZonMw and European Senior Editor of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. In 2017 he started as the chairman of the Medicines Evaluation Board of the Netherlands. He is involved in teaching students of the bachelor Pharmacy, College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, research master Drug Innovation and master of Pharmacy. His research interests are directed on methods of pharmacoepidemiology, pharmacogenetics in the field of cardiovascular diseases. Large prescription databases linked to medical information are used. The number of peer reviewed, both international and national, papers is appr. 500. His H-factor is 50 (Web of Science).


Fast-track vaccine development and market approval during the corona pandemic

Within one year effective vaccines were developed and approved by medicine authorities during the corona pandemic. Normally the development of a “new” vaccine takes 4-10 years and the approval process for market entry 1,5 years. Intense collaboration between the different stakeholders was essential for this accomplishment. Using existing techniques (like used for the mRNA-vaccines), parallel studies, instruments to speed up the approval process (e.g. rolling review), conditional marketing approval and risk management plans were key in the fast-track process. In my presentation I will look back and what we can expect in the future to remain protected from the Coronavirus.

Dr. Jes Dietrich

Statens Serum Institute, Denmark

Jes Dietrich is an immunologist from the University of Copenhagen that since 2001 has focused on infections, immunity and preclinical vaccine development. JDI has published basic immunology papers on group A Streptococcus (GAS), Tuberculosis (TB), Polio and on Chlamydia. Dr. Dietrich has determined the immunity against GAS in both humans and mice, and identified several new protective vaccine candidates. In 2011, Dr. Dietrich started a Polio vaccine group with the aim of developing an improved polio vaccine, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. This vaccine has now successfully completed a phase-III clinical trial. Dr. Dietrich also developed a vaccine against TB (HyVac4/IC31) that completed a phase II trial in 2018. Currently, the main focus of Dr. Dietrich is on Chlamydia immunology and on chlamydia vaccine development. In addition, Dr. Dietrich is the project leader of a trachoma project, “TracVac”, that SSI received EU funding for in 2017 to develop a trachoma vaccine able to prevent infection of the eye with Chlamydia trachomatis.


Developing a Chlamydia vaccine

Chlamydia trachomatis (C.t.) is an intracellular bacterium that can infect genital tract (GT) epithelial cells. There are more than 120 million new chlamydia cases worldwide annually. In more than half of the cases, infections are asymptomatic, and can lead to serious illnesses such as pelvic inflammatory disease, miscarriage and infertility. Current interventions against chlamydia are based on antibiotic treatment, and while being effective against acute infection, it does not prevent repeated infections or the associated pathological changes that destroy the female genital tract. To protect against this, a vaccine is required. At Statens Serum Institute we have developed a vaccine against Chlamydia that is now being tested in humans. In my lecture I will talk about the development of this vaccine, and I will describe how the vaccine works. I will also talk about our recent results on the immunity against a C.t. infection, and how these findings will be translated into future versions of our Chlamydia vaccine.

Dr. Decio L. Eizirik

Universite Libre de Bruxelles Center for Diabetes Research, Belgium



Dr. Decio Eizirik attended Medical School and did the training in Internal Medicine (endocrinology/diabetes) in Porto Alegre, Brazil. After this, he did a D.Med at the University of Sao Paulo, working half-time in endocrinology/diabetes and half-time in basic research. Part of his thesis was done at the University of British Columbia, Canada. This was followed by an assistant professor position and post-doctoral fellowship in Sweden, which turned into 10 years work. While there, he obtained a second Ph.D in cell/molecular biology and decided to focus on basic research, and to pursue a career in diabetes. 

Decios’s research focuses on the molecular pathways leading to autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes (T1D) and the mechanisms by which the immune system induces pancreatic β-cell impairment and apoptosis. His work has led to novel concepts such as the dialogue between the immune system and β-cells that triggers and amplifies insulitis and β-cell damage. The presence of this dialogue between the immune system and target tissues has been very recently validated by his group for three other autoimmune diseases. He pioneered studies on global gene expression in pancreatic β-cells, clarifying the cytokine-, virus- and metabolically-regulated gene networks that define β-cell dysfunction and death in diabetes. This led to the discovery of key “β-cell gene modules” regulated by the concerted action of transcription factors such as NF-kB, STAT-1, STAT-2, IRF-7 and JunB. These “gene modules” define the β-cell outcomes following immune, viral and metabolic injury. As a whole, Decio’s research introduced a paradigm shift in the field, indicating that the “battle” leading to β-cell loss in diabetes is fought, to a large extent, inside the β-cells, and leads to a “dialogue” with the invading immune cells that amplifies or not the immune assault depending on the individual’s background. He has received several European and USA awards, and published >390 papers (H-index: 85).



The deleterious dialogue between candidate genes, viruses, the immune system and pancreatic beta cells in type 1 diabetes

The lecture will focus on our ongoing research on the mechanisms by which candidate genes for type 1 diabetes affect the response of pancreatic beta cells and the immune system to potentially “diabetogenic viruses”, with emphasis on role for interferon alpha on the early “innate immunity-mediated” stage of the disease and how can this lead to the triggering of adaptive immunity and the long-lasting autoimmune assault that will lead to the progressive death of beta cells and eventually irreversible hyperglycaemia.


Dr. Richard Marconi (Eijkman Lecture)

Department of Microbiology and Immunology; Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, USA


Dr. Marconi earned his Bachelor of Science degree at William Patterson College of New Jersey and PhD at the University of Montana studying microbiology and biophysical chemistry, respectively. After completing his PhD work, he began his post-doctoral training at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology where he studied bacterial metabolism. He then accepted an Intramural Research Training Award at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, an NIH research facility in Hamilton, MT where he began working on Lyme disease and tick-borne relapsing fever. Dr. Marconi joined VCU Medical Center (Richmond, VA, USA) in 1994 as an Assistant Professor and is now a Full Professor of Medicine. He has 33 years of experience studying pathogenic bacteria including the causative agents of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, periodontal disease and leptospirosis. He has lectured worldwide, published over 130 research articles, been awarded 36 patents, developed two commercial products and has been continuously funded since 1990. He has served on over 125 national and international advisory panels and was a chartered member of the Vaccines for Microbial Diseases NIH Study Section. He was the recipient of the Billy R Martin Innovator Award and has been nominated for fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology.  Dr. Marconi serves as an advisor for several companies and Lyme disease research foundations. He is on the editorial board for several prestigious journals including Infection and Immunity.  He is an inventor of Vanguard®crLYME, a canine Lyme disease vaccine and is currently working to develop vaccines for Lyme and other bacterial diseases for use in humans.

Battling the growing threat of Lyme disease with novel chimeric epitope-based vaccines

Lyme disease is the most common arthropod borne disease in Europe and North America. It accounts for over 80% of all cases of tick-borne diseases in humans and companion animals. Three spirochetal species are primarily responsible for infections in humans: Borreliella burgdorferi, B. garinii, and B. afzelii. There is a pressing need to develop broadly protective vaccines to combat this debilitating illness. In this presentation, the etiology and enzootic cycle of Lyme disease will be discussed followed by an update on efforts to develop novel vaccine antigens using chimeric epitope based recombinant proteins. 

Dr. Joris Roosen

Centre for Social History of Limburg, Maastricht    



Joris is head of research at the Centre for Social History of Limburg and co-editor of the SHCL yearbook. In addition to this, he is one of the project leaders of the Black Death Digital Archive project, collaborating with a number of people from the U.S. Joris is also teaching a course on Medieval Civilization for the University College Maastricht. He obtained his PhD in economic history from the University of Utrecht, with a dissertation on the demographic and economic consequences of the mid-14th century Black Death. Before that, he graduated from the Master of Arts at the University of Gent. Despite being a socio-economic historian, he has also published articles in Emerging Infectious Diseases and the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Prior to his current placement, he worked as a research coordinator for the Foundation for Auditing Research at Nyenrode Business University. 


The Black Death and COVID-19: contextualizing the current pandemic through the lens of late Medieval history 

Few historical relationships have been as intimate, enduring or disruptive as that between humans and infectious disease. Diseases have influenced the course of human history from the earliest times and severe epidemics in particular have been credited by historians for shaping long-term economic, cultural and demographic societal trajectories. No single epidemic stands out more in this regard than the mid-fourteenth century Black Death. The symbolic power of this disease is so enduring that present-day epidemics such as Ebola, SARS and more recently COVID-19 have invariably been compared to late Medieval plague outbreaks. How useful is this comparison? What historical parallels can we draw between diseases that occured hundreds of years apart from each other? How useful is a historical perspective to better understand the complex nature of the Covid-19 pandemic? During this mini-lecture I will discuss these questions with the help of the audience.

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