Carmen Gerlach (Principal Investigator)

Carmen Gerlach

Fascinated by the biology of the human body, I studied Biomedical Sciences at Leiden University in Leiden, the Netherlands (B.Sc. 2003 & M.Sc. 2005). As I wanted to see something of the world at the same time, I participated in an exchange program with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and performed an internship in parasitology that included field work in rural northern Ghana. My growing interest in immunology led me to perform my Master thesis in the lab of Rienk Offringa and Kees Melief at the Leiden University Medical Center, and during that time I realized that I wanted to continue my research career in this field. As PhD student in Ton Schumacher’s lab at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam (2005-2011), I got the chance to combine technological development with gaining deeper insights into basic immunological processes. Together with a few colleagues, I developed a cellular barcoding technology that allows in vivo tracking and fate mapping of single naive T cells. Using this technology, I established that while virtually all naive CD8 T cells give rise to both effector and memory cell progeny (Gerlach et al., J.Exp. Med. 2010), individual naive T cells nevertheless mount very distinct immune responses to facilitate robustness of the overall response (Gerlach et al., Science 2013). During my postdoc in Ulrich von Andrian’s lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA (2011-2017), I studied the memory CD8 T cell response in more detail, which led to the delineation of a novel subset, named ‘peripheral memory cells (Tpm)’ that has unique migratory, homeostatic and functional properties (Gerlach et al., Immunity 2016). To gain a better understanding of the computational aspects involved in the analysis of (immune) cells with the current high-dimensional single-cell technologies, I spent 8 months as visiting scholar in Nir Yosef’s lab at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, USA (2017). Since November 2017, I am an Assistant Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

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Anthonie Zwijnenburg (PhD student)

Before I joined Carmen Gerlach’s lab, I was trained in the Netherlands as a Medical Doctor at the University of Utrecht (B.Sc. 2012 & M.Sc., M.D. 2016). During that time I discovered that my interests lie more towards basic science than clinical medicine. To challenge myself during my Medicine study, I joined the traumatology laboratory at the University Medical Center Utrecht (2011). Halfway through my medical rotations, I decided to take a break from Medicine and to full-time explore my possibilities outside of Europe. That is when I set up a research internship in the lab of Ulrich von Andrian at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA (2014). There, I met Carmen Gerlach for the first time, as I helped her with studying memory CD8 T cell responses and the delineation of the novel peripheral memory cells (TPM) (Gerlach et al., Immunity 2016). After my year in the USA, I moved back to the Netherlands and finished my medical rotations. For my final scientific internship, I joined Jacco van Rheenen’s lab at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, Netherlands (2016). Here, I worked on human cancer organoids and the spatial analysis of confocal images. After finishing university, I first pursued another life goal by thru-hiking the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa. Unknowing that Carmen’s and my path would cross again. While walking the last few hundred kilometers I got the message that Carmen was starting her own lab at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and here I am.

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Natalia Ramírez Comet (Postdoc)

photo websiteI find the biology of immune cells extraordinary – how they are capable of fostering defensive responses against foreign pathogens, but are permissive to microorganisms that can represent a benefit for the organism’s survival (i.e. gut flora). Moreover, they can distinguish between healthy and transformed cells of their own organism, fighting potential cancer cells. These interesting properties motivated me to do a PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Luis Alberto Anel (Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain), where I focused on the pathways that regulate the cytotoxic mechanisms that NK cells exert for the elimination of tumor cells. Once I finished that project, I started to be intrigued about how these signaling pathways regulated the fate and function of the immune cells. To answer this question, I moved to the lab of Dr. Esteban Ballestar (Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL), Barcelona, Spain) and found that DNA methylation plays an important role during immune cell differentiation and function acquisition. As postdoc in Carmen Gerlach’s group, I am studying another intriguing feature of the immune system: the memory of CD8 T cells.

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