We are interested in understanding the molecular interplay between bacteria and the complement system, an important part of the host immune response. Upon contact with bacteria, the plasma proteins of the complement system rapidly organize into a proteolytic cascade that generates chemoattractants to attract immune cells and labels bacteria for phagocytosis.

Furthermore, complement directly kills bacteria via a pore-forming complex. Thus far, our work mainly focused on deciphering the mechanisms exploited by pathogenic bacteria to block complement. In the coming years we will focus on deciphering the mechanistic insights on how bacteria are killed by complement. This will create new avenues for blocking the undesired complement activation during systemic infections and will improve desired complement activation by therapeutic antibodies and vaccination strategies in infectious diseases.

In the Dutch News: interview (with video footage) of Dani Heesterbeek and Suzan Rooijakkers on dutch Radio 1. Chapter 4 of Dani’s thesis “How complement kills bacteria” deals with an interesting concept of the cooperative interaction of the host complement system and antibiotics to kill Gram-Negative bacteria. Testing antibiotics in the presence of complement expands the applicability of existing and novel antibiotics in treatment.

Official start of CORVOS – a European joint doctorate programme in immunology & infectious disease. It is an Innovative Training Network within the MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONS, financed by the Horizon2020 project of the European Commission. The acronym CORVOS stands for COmplement Regulation and Variations in Opportunistic infectionS.  CORVOS will educate 15 highly motivated PhD students to fill the current scientific gap in the understanding of the role of complement in opportunistic infections. The young scientists will become creative alumni equipped with entrepreneurial and clinical skills, making them attractive human resources to academia and industry alike. So far 10 candidates were selected that come from 8 nations (Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, United States, Columbia, China). The program is coordinated by the Medical University of Innsbruck. The raven, corvus corax, symbol for wisdom in the Nordic mythology, and in particular the bird in the Alpine Zoo in Innsbruck, has been the patron for the programme already from application phase. More info on CORVOS here.