Research Groups

David Vermijlen Group

Description of the research topics

γδ T cells are unconventional T cells that express a γδ T cell receptor (TCR) on their cell surface instead of an αβ TCR as on conventional CD4+ and CD8+ αβ T cells. γδ T cells can have several roles, including protection against infections and tumors. The general approach of our current research is to obtain insight into human γδ T cells by applying sophisticated molecular biological techniques (such as TCR repertoire analysis) on clinical samples. Important in vivo findings are then further investigated in vitro in order to understand molecular mechanisms. In parallel, mouse models are used to address particular research questions. A main focus of our research is the role and ontogeny of γδ T cells in early life. Furthermore, recently γδ T cells have been in the spotlight of innovative anti-tumour therapies thanks to their unique features. Our group also investigate these cells in cancer context, usually in collaboration with other research teams.


Principal Investigator

After his PhD at the VUB on natural killer cells of the liver, David went to London for a post-doc in the laboratory of Prof. Adrian Hayday at King’s College to investigate human γδ T cells (2003-2006). After his return to Belgium, David continued to work on γδ T cells at the ULB, with a focus on their role and ontogeny in early life. He is associate professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy since 2012.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Maria joined the lab in October 2015. She is a pharmacist and obtained a FRIA scholarship (FNRS) for her thesis entitled ‘Thymic development and peripheral functional polarisation of human Vγ9Vδ2 T cells’ (supervisor David Vermijlen). She currently continues to work on γδ T cells, including the investigation of their role in biliary atresia (a liver disease affecting young children) and placental malaria infection.

PhD Student

MA, Ling
Ling obtained her master from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She joined the team of David Vermijlen in November 2015 and is currently finalising her PhD. Her main project is the role of γδ T cells in congenital infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. In addition, she is working on the activation of human γδ T cells by drugs based on mistletoe-extracts.
SANCHEZ, Guillem
Guillem obtained a Master in Advanced Immunology (University of Barcelona) and started as a PhD student in the team of David Vermijlen in October 2019. His primary research topic is the molecular understanding of the generation of human innate γδ T cells. He is investigating as well the role of γδ T cells in sepsis in infants and is involved, via external collaborations, in other projects such as the repertoire analysis of unconventional αβ T cells.
TAFESSE, Yohannes
Yohannes obtained his master's in Molecular Biology and Genetics from the University of Pavia. He joined the team of David Vermijlen in November 2019. In close collaboration with the team of Véronique Flamand, he is investigating the role of the (maternal) microbiome in the development and function of γδ T cells in an early-life mouse model, and whether this can be modulated by the maternal administration of probiotics.