2022 – Overlooked: turning a blind eye

Dr. Fulvio D’Acquisto (Eijkman lecture)

University of Roehampton – England


Fulvio D’Acquisto has always been fascinated by the idea that the human body produces its immunomodulatory molecules. His major scientific contributions are in the field of the identification of new therapeutic approaches to treat inflammation and autoimmunity. Since the very beginning of his research career studying the effects of glucocorticoids on inflammation, he has been fascinated by the idea that the body has its own arsenal of weapons to tame and control an unhealthy immune response.

He is currently focusing his scientific and academic career on understanding the link between emotions, immunity, and inflammation. This area of research has recently gained lots of attention in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, and he has ‘christained’ it himself as Affective Immunology (http://www.affectiveimmunology.com). His studies have attracted a great deal of interest by the lay public and practitioners interested in wellbeing, psychologists, psychotherapists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and behavioralists.

His overall aim is to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of emotion-affecting immunomodulatory therapies and to establish this new field of research through teaching and mentoring. He is planning to do so using interdisciplinary approaches that combine different and classically ‘separated’ disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, immunology, pharmacology, and design. His hope and ambition are that the results of this project will constitute an example of ‘paradigm shift’ in translational research where ‘body and mind’ are taken together into consideration to achieve a better and patient-tailored

Affective immunology: where emotions and immune response converge

Affect and emotion are defined as “an essential part of the process of an organism’s interaction with stimuli.” Similar to affect, the immune response is the “tool” the body uses to interact with the external environment. Thanks to the emotional and immunological response, we learn to distinguish between what we like and what we do not like, to counteract a broad range of challenges, and to adjust to the environment we are living in. Recent compelling evidence has shown that the emotional and immunological systems share more than a similarity of functions. This review article will discuss the crosstalk between these two systems and the need for a new scientific area of research called affective immunology. Research in this field will allow a better understanding and appreciation of the immunological basis of mental disorders and the emotional side of immune diseases. 

Prof. dr. Annemieke Geluk

Leiden University Medical Center – The Netherlands


Annemieke Geluk is professor of immunodiagnostics of mycobacterial infectious diseases, leprosy, and tuberculosis. Her research group at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) functions as the national reference centre for routine serological diagnosis of leprosy and provides this service also in Europe. The societal role of her research is particularly exemplified by her studies on poverty-associated, neglected tropical diseases such as leprosy. Building on decennia-long research on immunology of leprosy at the LUMC, user-friendly POC tests for detection of various disease stages for leprosy were developed and globally field-tested. This immunodiagnostic research approach for leprosy, has led to POC tests for tuberculosis but also for personalized diagnostics, i.e., monitoring patients to early detect harmful immune activity using similar POC assays. Particularly, the ability to detect tissue destructive immunological flares prior to onset of clinical symptoms, allowing timely treatment, can significantly improve the patients’ quality of life. Based on a OneHealth approach (human, animal, environment), she also explores routes of mycobacterial transmission. Here too, immunodiagnostics plays a central role.

Leprosy, forgotten but not disappeared

Leprosy is still a considerable health threat in pockets of several low and middle income countries worldwide where intense transmission of Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of leprosy, is witnessed. After tuberculosis, leprosy ranks second in the order of severe human mycobacterial diseases and often results in irreversible disabilities and deformities due to delayed- or misdiagnosis. Diagnosis of leprosy represents a substantial hurdle in present-day leprosy health as recognizing the signs and symptoms of leprosy is challenging, especially at an early stage. Improved diagnostic tools, based on sensitive and specific biomarkers, that facilitate diagnosis of leprosy are therefore urgently needed. In this lecture, the importance of leprosy research and the challenges that it is facing, will be discussed.

Prof. dr. Ab Osterhaus (GSLS lecture)

Ab Osterhaus is a leading Dutch virologist, who is an expert in the field of influenza. He is Emeritus Professor of Virology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and known for his work on SARS and H5N1, the pathogen that causes avian influenza. During the corona pandemic he was often seen in the media as an expert on infectious disease control.

Preparing for the next pandemic: Can we do better next time?

The emergence of a new viral pandemic was, is and remains a matter of when, rather than if, even today in the tail of a devastating pandemic. Among the prime candidates are those caused by influenza viruses that originate from animals. The SARS and MERS outbreaks in the past two decades highlighted the threat posed by animal coronaviruses before the unprecedented COVID-19 assault started. But we should not forget that members of other virus families affecting the animal kingdom can also be quite successful at jumping host species, like paramyxoviruses, hantaviruses, filoviruses, bunyaviruses, flaviviruses, just to name a few. The number of newly emerging viruses in the human population, most of which originate from animals, has dramatically increased in the past decades. However, this exchange of pathogens at the human-animal interface is not new. Childhood diseases, such as smallpox, mumps and measles, have been acquired up to thousands of years ago by transmission of their ancestral viruses from domesticated livestock. In the past centuries, influenza- and metapneumoviruses have been transmitted from birds to humans and have become established as recurring seasonal scourges. More recently, countless reports of novel viral disease emergence events have made the news, revealing a most worrying trend. These include the AIDS pandemic caused by HIV, hemorrhagic fever outbreaks caused by arena- hanta- flavi- and filoviruses, pneumonia and viral encephalitis caused by Nipah and Hendra viruses, debilitating arthralgia in people with Chikungunya, or even more unexpected ailments such as microencephaly in newborns with Zika. This trend is mirrored by a similar increase in viral outbreaks among wild and domestic animal species worldwide, threatening and often decimating their populations. It is fueled by dramatically accumulating anthropogenic changes of our planet, including relentless urbanization and industrialization, natural habitat destruction, global trade and travel, collectively making the current geological epoch, the “Anthropocene”. These global changes lead to increased human-to-human contacts even across large geographical distances and to increased human-to-animal contacts, involving both domestic and wild species, in often mixing populations. As these anthropogenic changes are largely determined by human behavior and therefore generally hard to influence, new viral threats will continue to emerge, ever more frequently. This warning has been raised for many decades now, and re-iterated upon each novel emergence, like Nipah, avian and pandemic influenza, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, all calling for epidemic and pandemic preparedness. Apparently, we were not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2.

Dr. Conny van der Laken

Amsterdam University Medical Center – The Netherlands


Conny van der Laken is a medical doctor in the Amsterdam UMC. She is rheumatologist for which she did her promotion at the Radboud UMC. During her promotion, she focussed on molecular imaging of the immune system. She continued this study in her research line: imaging in the rheumatology. She shares her time between patients, labs, education, and management. Currently her research group consists of fifteen people with various backgrounds, such as PhD students, postdocs, analists, and research nurses. The focus of this group is the early diagnosis and the development of tailored therapy for the spectrum of inflammatory rheumatic diseases. 

Imaging of inflammatory rheumatic diseases

Millions of people are affected by rheumatic diseases, e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, and vasculitis. Early diagnostics, therapy monitoring, and prediction of various rheumatic diseases is important. Therefore, the development and application of advanced imaging technology is key. In the past years, a strong focus has been put on molecular imaging and translational development of imaging markers (from lab to clinical studies) for in vivo visualization of immunological targets. Apart from diagnostics and therapy guidance, we also use these techniques for pathogenetic studies of rheumatic diseases, systemic involvement of tissues in inflammatory diseases and to support development of new therapeutic agents. 

Prof. dr. Reinout van Crevel

Radboud University Medical Center – The Netherlands; Oxford University – England 


Reinout van Crevel is an internist-infectious disease specialist and Professor in Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the Radboud University Medical Center and Oxford University. He works as clinician-scientist at Radboud UMC, a national referral hospital for tuberculosis and non-tuberculous mycobacterial infections. The goal of his research is to integrate patient studies and laboratory sciences to understand the ‘biology’ and improve diagnosis and management of different manifestations of TB. He has lived in Indonesia for several years leading a large multidisciplinary program on HIV prevention and management, and now leads large studies on TB meningitis in Asia and on TB and diabetes in Uganda and Tanzania.

Can immunometabolism explain how diabetes increases tuberculosis susceptibility and mortality?

Diabetes mellitus increases susceptibility to tuberculosis (TB) and worsens TB outcomes. Diabetes is also associated with drug-resistant TB. Worldwide more than 500 million people suffer from diabetes mellitus, and almost 90% of these people live in countries where TB is endemic. Diabetes is therefore a strong driver of the TB pandemic. Prof van Crevel will give a short introduction to the epidemiology and clinical presentation of diabetes-associated TB, and then discuss potential underlying mechanisms, especially related to immunometabolic alterations in diabetes and TB.

Prof. dr. Pascal Mäser

Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute – Switzerland 


Pascal Mäser graduated from the University of Basel in 1998 with a Ph.D. in microbiology. He moved on to the University of California San Diego for postdoctoral research in molecular plant physiology, and in 2002 returned to Switzerland, University of Bern, as an assistant professor for molecular parasitology. In 2009 he joined the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. Currently he is associate professor for parasitology and protozoology at the University of Basel and head of the parasite chemotherapy unit of the Swiss TPH. His research focuses on drug discovery for trypanosomatid parasites and malaria.

Drug Discovery for Neglected Tropical Diseases

The estimated costs to develop a new drug exceed one billion Euro. Blockbuster drugs such as cholesterol-lowering agents will return this investment in the first year they are on the market. Drugs for neglected tropical diseases, in contrast, are unlikely to make any profit, let alone one billion; the neglected patients who are affected by neglected diseases do not represent a market. How can this dilemma be overcome? Compromises on drug quality or drug safety are not an option. Two models will be presented that have helped to replenish the development pipeline for new antiparasitic drugs: push mechanisms and pull mechanisms. The former are exemplified by product development partnerships such as the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), the latter by the Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The impact on drug discovery for neglected tropical diseases will be illustrated using the success story of fexinidazole, the fruit of a public-private partnership. Fexinidazole is the first oral drug for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, nourishing the hope to eliminate what was once the scourge of rural Africa.

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