Institute for Medical Immunology

Fabienne WILLEMS


Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Degrees and relevant experience

BSc in Zoology and PhD in Immunology. Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Fabienne teaches general immunology to Bachelors in Biomedical Sciences and Dentistry. The objective of her research is to decipher the innate immune signatures predicting the development of the adaptive immune response to vaccines in human.

Current research interests

  • Innate immune response to adjuvant-based vaccines in human

    One of the main challenges of modern vaccinology is the understanding of how the innate immune system controls the subsequent magnitude and quality of adaptive response. The innate and adaptive interaction is crucial to achieve optimal vaccination with robust immunogenicity. It is particularly important to the selection of adjuvants that are used to enhance the immunogenicity of non-infectious subunit vaccines by the activation of innate immune responses. Currently, our focus is to elucidate the links between innate and adaptive immune responses to vaccines in human. This fundamental question is at the basis of an ongoing collaboration with GSKBio aiming at the definition of early signatures driven by adjuvanted-based vaccines which underlie the magnitude and the quality of the adaptive immune response. This project involves high-throughput technologies allowing an integrated multivariate analysis of the phenotype, activation status and effector properties of innate immune cell subsets from clinical samples. We further assess the transcriptomic and epigenomic profiling of the most relevant cellular subpopulation. In collaboration with Arnaud Marchant at IMI, we monitor the T and B cell response in order to delineate the interplay between vaccine-induced innate and adaptive responses. The current project is likely to generate new paradigms in vaccinology providing essential guidance for the selection of new adjuvants and the development of innovative vaccines with improved efficacy.

Related publications

De Kleer I, Willems F, Lambrecht B, Goriely S. Ontogeny of myeloid cells. 2014. Front Immunol. 5:423.

Vermijlen D, Brouwer M, Donner C, Liesnard C, Tackoen M, Van Rysselberge M, Twité N, Goldman M, Marchant A, Willems F. Human cytomegalovirus elicits fetal gd T cell responses in utero. 2010 J. Exp. Med., 207: 807.

Willems F, Vollstedt S and Suter M. Phenotype and function of neonatal DC. 2009. Eur. J. Immunol., 39; 26.

Danis B, George TC, Goriely S, Dutta B, Renneson J, Gatto L, Fitzgerald-Bocarsly P, Marchant A, Goldman M, Willems F, De Wit D Interferon regulatory factor 7-mediated responses are defective in cord blood plasmacytoid dendritic cells. 2008. Eur J Immunol. 38:507.

Goriely S, Molle C, Nguyen M, Albarani V, Ouled Haddou N, Lin R, De Wit D, Flamand V, Willems F, Goldman M. Interferon regulatory factor 3 is involved in Toll like receptor (TLR)4- and TLR3-induced IL-12p35 gene activation. 2006. Blood, 107: 1078.

De Wit D, Olislagers V, Goriely S, Vermeulen F, Wagner H, Goldman M, Willems F. Blood plasmacytoid dendritic cell responses to CpG oligodeoxynucleotides are impaired in human newborns. 2004. Blood 103:1030-1032.