I have always had an interest in the evolution of the vertebrate’s immune system and, in particular in the immune system of fish. The idea that fish were the first vertebrates to have ‘invented’ an immune system, almost as complex as the one we now know for mammals, has always fascinated me. Having realised that mammals often represent the exception, rather than the rule when it comes to common solutions to fight pathogens, made me specialize in ‘Comparative Immunology’.
The research in my group is a balanced mixture of fundamental and applied science. On the one hand, we take a comparative approach to study various aspects of the immune system of different vertebrate species, and on the other hand, we focus on the immune response of avian (chicken) and fish (cyprinids) species to various infection models. We then apply this fundamental knowledge to the development of experimental vaccines. In chicken we study anti-viral immunity against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) infection; in cyprinid fish we focus on (DNA) vaccine development against rhabdoviruses and herpesviruses, as well as on immune responses against trypanosome infections. We recently established a ‘sleeping sickness’ (trypanosomiasis) infection model in zebrafish and we are able to follow in real-time, in vivo, the kinetics of host-pathogen interaction; such model is unique and will help unravel mechanisms that have never been visualised before, not even in mammals.
I studied Biology and specialized in Molecular Immunology in Italy, at the University of Tuscia, in Viterbo. In 2002, I received my MSc degree with distinction.
For my PhD, I then I moved to Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and in 2009 I graduated with distinction.
In 2011 I received a personal grant (Veni) from the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) which allowed me to become Associate Professor and establish my research group at Wageningen University.
Since 2017 I am Associate Professor and I lead the ‘Comparative Immunology Group’ within the Department of Animal Sciences of Wageningen University
My contact details: email@example.com