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Robert Harris


Visiting address : Cmm L8:04, Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden
Delivery address : Cmm L8:04, Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden

About me

Professor of Immunotherapy in Neurological Diseases 2013-present
President of ORPHEUS doctoral education organization 2014-present
Central Director of Doctoral studies at Karolinska Institutet 2008-present
Director of Doctoral studies at Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Karolinska Institutet 2005-present
Awarded Karolinska Institutet’s Pedagogy Prize 2014
78 publications and 1 review – Web of Science h index = 21 Google Scholar H index = 29, i index = 60
Currently receives research funding from Swedish Medical research Council, AlzheimerFonden, CancerFonden, BarnCancerFonden and Karolinsk Institutet
Currently supervises 6 PhD students, co-supervises 5 PhD students, 1 Postdoctoral Fellow and one undergraduate student


University Education

BSc (Hons) Biology - Upper Second Class Portsmouth Polytechnic, UK 1987


PhD Training

’Haemolymph proteins and the snail immune response’ University College London, UK 1991

Research description

There is currently no cure for the diseases we study, and existing medications are only partly effective.

Our main interest is thus on developing new strategies to reduce or abrogate disease symptoms.

We focus on using the body’s own myeloid cells as a means of treating the same individual through ‘personalised cell therapy.’

Scientific Hypothesis addressed: Adoptive transfer of pre-activated myeloid cells will be an effective treatment for inflammatory disease states.


Developing novel immunotherapies for treatment of autoimmune diseases

We design and test novel therapeutic interventions for modulation of rodent autoimmune models, with the intention of innovative technology transfer to treatment of patient groups.

We develop antigen-specific vaccination protocols, such as autoantigen in adjuvants that induce regulatory T cell subsets.

We have also developed a novel cell transfer therapy based on specifically activated macrophages/microglia/monocytes. We test whether such approaches can induce short-term and long-term protection in experimental models, and define the immunological basis of the protective mechanisms. The models currently being tested include MS, Alzheimer’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Stroke, Pain and Brain Tumours (Glioblastoma multiformes).

Despite that autoimmune disease are so common, their etiology is currently unknown.

What we do know is that most autoimmune diseases are antigen (protein)-specific.

As the body’s immune system should not react to its’ own proteins, we believe that alteration of protein structures through immune processes is the critical event that leads to initiation of autoimmune diseases.

We thus focus on understanding the immunological consequences of post-translational modifications of self-antigens.

Scientific hypothesis tested: Post-translational modification of autoantigens defines their three-dimensional form as non-self.


This question relates to why autoimmune disease develops in the first place. Our hypothesis is that the immune system does what it is supposed to – attacks foreign invading microorganisms, but that during this process there is damage to cells and molecules in the vicinity. Such chemical modifications of self proteins lead to them being perceived as being non-self to the immune system, leading to breaking of immune tolerance and iniation of specific autoimmune attack. We therefore believe that autoimmune disease develops as a consequence of unwanted side-effects of a ’normal’ inflammatory process.


In order to study this phenomenon we chemically modify autoantigens known to be important in inducing autoimmune diseases – insulin and glutamic acid decarboxylase for T1DM, and MOG for MS. We use modifications that are the result of activation of macrophages and neutrophils, the cells that comprise most inflammatory cells infiltrating an inflammatory site. The modifications include oxidation, chlorination, nitrosylation and citrullination and we assess the biochemical, immunological and structural effects of these modifications on the autoantigens.

Teaching portfolio

Courses taught at a postgraduate level:

High Performance Chromatography Methods - Applications in Analysis of Biologically Significant Molecules

Trypanosomiasis and Lesihmanisasis protozoan infection biology

I IUIS Course “Infections & Immunology: Views Towards the XXI Century”

Molecular Immunology

Cellular and Molecular Infection Biology

Winter Immunology School

Summer School in Immunology, “Translational Medicine in the field of Autoimmunity”

New Vaccines – advances in current vaccinology

Clinical and Experimental


Cytokines in inflammation

Basic Immunology


Immune, Gene and Cell therapy

Translational Medicine in the Field of Autoimmunity


Courses taught at an undergraduate level:

Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Experimental and Clinical Neuroimmunology

Immunological mechanisms in autoimmune diseases

Tropiska parasiter och svenska

Eukaryot mikrobiologi

Basic Immunology - Macrophages


Leadership courses for faculty:

Introduction course for PhD students at KI

Basic course for supervisors at KI

Advance course in pedagogy for supervisors at KI



Conflict prevention, management and resolution

Intended Learning Outcomes - formulation and examination

Professional responsbility as a PhD supervisor


These taching activities are primarily conducted at locally at KI, but also both nationally in Swedish universities as well as internationally.

Academic honors, awards and prizes

Wellcome Trust Travel Fellow award recipient, 1994
British Council Visiting Professor award recipient, 1995

Docent in Molecular Medicine, 1999, Karolinska Institutet

Professor Immunotherapy in Neuroinflammation, 2013, Karolinska Institutet

Pegagogy Prize, 2014 Karolinska Institutet