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Immunologist Joris van der Veeken joins IMP

20 Jul 2021

The immunologist Joris van der Veeken, previously a postdoctoral researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering, is establishing his lab at the IMP. He will contribute to the long tradition of immunological research at the institute.

Joris van der Veeken’s lab will study the molecular mechanisms underlying the differentiation and function of T cells, critical “white blood cells” of vertebrate immune systems, in both health and disease. To do so, the lab will use cutting-edge methods from genetics, genomics, and cellular immunology.

“It is great starting here at this moment in time”, says Joris van der Veeken. “I can benefit from guidance through established groups such as the one of Meinrad Busslinger, and at the same time enjoy being a bit of a ‘resident immunologist’ among plenty of other people who work in completely different fields.”

The activation of T cells during an immune response triggers their rapid proliferation and the acquisition of specialized effector functions that enable the elimination of a wide range of pathogens and tumours. At the same time, a dedicated subset of “regulatory” T cells prevents autoimmunity by suppressing T cell responses against the host. Understanding the molecular pathways that steer this sophisticated defence weaponry while maintaining self-tolerance, will be the big-picture goal of the lab.

In autumn, a PhD student will join Joris van der Veeken and his research assistant. Van der Veeken will also explore funding opportunities for postdoc positions and other lab members.

Moving to Europe from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York brings van der Veeken closer to home: he is originally from Breda, a town in the south of the Netherlands. Following his undergraduate and master studies at the university of Utrecht with a stint at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California, van der Veeken pursued his doctoral research at Cornell University in New York.

Asked about his first impressions of the IMP and the surrounding campus of the Vienna BioCenter, van der Veeken points out the exceptionally high standard of the service facilities – and the manifold opportunities to interact with other groups: “With neighbouring labs studying transcriptional regulation, cancer, and developmental biology, there are so many touching points and synergies. It’s really exciting to work in such an environment.”

Although new to Vienna, van der Veeken has already noticed that the city has a more soothing pace than New York City. “The surroundings are really green and teeming with wildlife. That is a big change from what you get in New York – subway rats and cockroaches.”

For more information on Joris van der Veeken’s research and opportunities to join the group, please see the lab pages.