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 investigates 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 Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), with a focus on their role and ontogeny in early life. He is professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and WELBIO investigator.

Postdoctoral Fellow

KÖHLER , Arnaud
Arnaud joined the lab in 2011 as a PhD student in Biomedical Science with a F.R.I.A. grant (team Véronique Flamand). He co-discovered the neonatal precursors of type 1 conventional dendritic cells. He developed a strong expertise on the impact of microbiota on neonatal pre-cDC1. He is now conducting preclinical research in the teams of Véronique Flamand and David Vermijlen on the cross-talk between maternal microenvironment and the neonatal pre-cDC1 and γδ T cells.
Maria joined the lab in October 2015. She is a pharmacist and obtained a FRIA scholarship (FNRS) for her PhD thesis on the thymic development and peripheral function of γδ T cells (supervisor David Vermijlen). She continues to work in the group as a postdoctoral researcher (FNRS) and co-supervises two PhD students. She is focusing on the role of γδ T cells in biliary atresia (a liver disease affecting young children) and the characterisation of γδ T cells in the human periphery.

PhD Student

Moosa joined David Vermijlen's team as a PhD student in December 2022, where he is investigating human γδ T cells in the context neonatal immunity and cancer immunosurveillance (funding: WELBIO). He obtained his master's degree in Immunology from Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran. Along with Immunology, he is also interested in big data analysis and bioinformatics.
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 (funding: Télévie FNRS). 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 (funding FRIA FNRS).
Isoline obtained a Master in Pharmaceutical sciences from the ULB. She joined the team of David Vermijlen as a PhD student in October 2021. She is investigating the role of a common genetic variation on the development of innate versus adaptive γδ T cells and the potential underlying mechanisms (funding FNRS).
VITSOS, Panagiotis (Panos)
Panos is a biologist and has completed the interdisciplinary MSc “Applications of Biology in Medicine” at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He joined the group of David Vermijlen in October 2022 as a PhD student. His WELBIO-funded research project focuses on characterizing the γδ T cell compartment in peripheral tissues, such as the human lung.

Previous Lab Member

Tanya Dimova was a post-doctoral fellow in the team of David Vermijlen from 2009 till 2012 (funding FEDER/European commission, ‘Immunomonitoring of gammadelta T cells’). Her research focused on the gammadelta T cells present in human fetal peripheral blood.
GATTI, Deborah
Deborah was a post-doctoral fellow in the team of David Vermijlen from 2017 till 2019, with an MSCA individual fellowship (Horizon 2020, European Commission). She worked on γδ TCR ligand identification and participated to projects related to human γδ T cell development.
MA, Ling
Ling obtained her master from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She joined the team of David Vermijlen in November 2015 (funding Chinese Scholarship Council) and presented her PhD thesis in 2020, entitled: 'The γδ T cell response towards Toxoplasma infection and towards mistletoe extracts'.
Paola joined the team of David Vermijlen in 2014. She defended with success her PhD thesis in 2020, entitled 'The development of human fetal γδ thymocytes' (funding Télévie FNRS).
VAN HEDE, Dorien
Dorien performed her PhD thesis entitled ‘Role of γδ T cells in the progression of human papilloma virus-associated lesions’ (2012-2017), under co-supervision with Nathalie Jacobs (ULiège).