Early life immune responses to infection

UNIL main applicant

Dr Eric Giannoni, Faculty of Biology and Medicine

ULB main applicant

Dr David Vermijlen, Faculty of Pharmacy




Joint research project


This collaboration – with the expertise of Dr Gianonni (UNIL) and Dr Vermijlen (ULB) – propose to design and develop new research projects in order to improve the understanding of the immune system in early life.

Indeed, invasive bacterial infections are a leading cause of childhood mortality worldwide, with newborns and young children being at the highest risk of developing severe or lethal infections. The vulnerability to infection observed in early life is associated with a developing immune system characterized by a limited ability to mount protective immune responses to pathogenic microorganisms. Due to the lack of exposure to antigens in utero, the adaptive immune system is not fully developed at birth, leading to a reduced capacity to mount efficient B cell and γδ T cell responses, and the need to rely on innate immune responses to fight against infections. Attempts at modulating the neonatal immune system to prevent or treat infections have only yielded limited benefits. Therefore, extensive characterization of host-pathogen interactions in early life is required to develop novel preventive and therapeutic strategies.

Two specific aims have been identified for this common UNIL-ULB application:

  1. Sharing results of current projects on early life immune responses to infection conducted at both institutions through seminars held at the UNIL and the ULB, setting up meetings to discuss and develop new research projects, and plan future common grants applications.
  2. Investigation of γδ T cell activation during neonatal and pediatric sepsis. The aim is to generate preliminary data, using a sequencing service that will allow us to apply for external funding (national, European and other international funding).

In this common project, the highly complementary expertise of Dr Vermijlen and Dr Giannoni will be combined and highly integrated and will allow to develop novel approaches to improve our understanding of the immune responses to invasive infection in early life.


  • Autumn 2018: Technical test by the laboratory of Dr David Vermijlen and his visit to UNIL in order to discuss the technical test result.
  • Winter 2019: pilot experiment
  • Spring 2019: analysis of HTS data, relation with clinical data and visit of Dr Eric Giannoni to ULB to discuss the HTS data and their relation to clinical and microbiological data.


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