Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren group - Human NK cells in health and disease

Our group is conducting translational and clinical studies in the field of immunology, with one strong focus on the development of next-generation NK cell-based cellular therapies towards human malignancies. The group is also studying immune reactions towards human viral infections and vaccines, in particular in the field of flavivirus-, hantavirus-, and SARS-CoV-2-research.

In collaboration with a large network of academic and industrial collaborators within a program financed by Sweden’s Innovation Agency (Vinnova), members of the group are contributing towards the development of “next-generation” highly optimized, rapidly accessible and cost-effective, precision-based autologous and allogeneic NK cell therapies against a broad range of human cancers. They will encompass, highly differentiated NK cells, metabolically optimized NK cells, genetically engineered NK cells and/or NK cells stimulated by external modulators for enhanced clinical safety and efficacy.

Members of the group are also active in projects studying immune reactions towards human viral infections, in particular against flaviviruses (in particular TBEV, JEV, and YFV), hantaviruses (Puumula and Andes viruses), and SARS-CoV-2. The group is also studying vaccine responses against flaviviruses and SARS-CoV-2. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, vaccine studies encompass studies of immunocompromised individuals. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the group has been very active in building up large Covid-19 biobank for immediate immunological research efforts and for long-term research. Several studies early on contributed to our understanding of immune reactions towards SARS-CoV-2.

The group has driven, and been involved in, several clinical trials in the fields of adoptive immunotherapies against human cancer as well as in human vaccinations against flavivirus infections and SARS-CoV-2. In the course of the SARS-CoV pandemic, the group leader has taken active responsibility towards a large number of request from media.

Keywords: 

NK cells, innate immunity, adaptive immunity, T cells, virus, cancer, hematology, immunotherapy, vaccine

Videos featuring group leader Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren

Interviews with Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren on Swedish TV

Interviews with Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren about the corona virus on Swedish TV Nyhetsmorgon (in Swedish).

Group leader

Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren

MD PhD – Professor, group leader

Hans-Gustaf received his MD and PhD from KI between 1982 and 1992. He completed a two-year post-doc fellowship at M.I.T., Boston, USA, from 1992-1994 and then returned to KI and started his own research group at the Department of Microbiology Tumor and Cell Biology in 1994. In 2001, he was appointed Professor at the Department of Medicine (H7), KI and there founded the Center for Infectious Medicine.

Group members

Kim Blom

PhD – Associate Professor

Kim received her Ph.D. degree from Karolinska Institutet in 2016. Her focus during the Ph.D studies was to understand the innate and adaptive immune responses elicited during the acute stage of virus infection in humans. Her current work is focused on how to improve already existing vaccines and to understand what elicits a good immune response and immunological memory after vaccination.

Angelica Cuapio Gomez

MD, Post doc

Angelica is an MD with a doctorate from the University of Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany. In 2018, after a 2-year Post Doc at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, she joined the Ljunggren group at KI to study the immunopathogenic effects of natural killer cells in viral infections targeting the central nervous system. Her scientific trajectory has involved natural killer cells in three different scenarios: autoimmunity, cancer and viral infections.

Puran Chen

Postdoctoral researcher

Puran Chen received his Medical Degree from Karolinska Institutet in 2015, and his PhD in 2020. He joined the group as a Postdoctoral researcher, focusing on SARS-CoV-2 research where he have coordinated the efforts for the joint Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital SARS-CoV-2 sample collection as well as several clinical trials in the same context. The research focuses on data-driven translational research in SARS-CoV-2 and aims at improving AI-assisted clinical decision making.

Mira Akber

Research technician

Mira Akber completed her PhD preparatory training from Uppsala graduate school for biomedical research (UGSBR), Uppsala University where she worked on “the Role of Peroxiredoxin II and ICAM3 as Biomarker in NK and DC mediated HIV1 Infection”. She also did her masters in molecular biology with an external thesis from Lund University. During her master thesis work, Mira analyzed the dynamic pattern of the bicoid (bcd) mRNA and protein in various mutant Drosophila fly lines using molecular, genetic and cell biological techniques. She worked at Karolinska institutet since October 2019 as a research assistant in the field of immunology. Currently, Mira Akber is working as a research technician with Covid-19 vaccine sample processing and Biobank.

Tyler Sandberg

PhD Student

Tyler received his Master of Science in Immunology and Infection Biology from Uppsala University in 2016, where he worked on understanding vaccine responses in germinal center reactions in non-human primates. He joined the group in 2016 as a PhD student, focusing on B cell responses towards different flavivirus vaccines as well as investigating new vaccine strategies against these infections.

David Wullimann

PhD Student

During his degree project as a master’s student in Molecular Biology with Medical Biology as specialization from Lund University, David studied the molecular effects of exercise on the effector function of CD8 T cells. David joined the Ljunggren group, amidst the covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, as a doctoral (PhD) student to focus his work on understanding the cell-mediated immune response to flavivirus vaccination and advance current global vaccine strategies against flavivirus infection.  

Previous group members

Post docs (years)

Algarra, I., 1990-92; DeFries, R., 1994-95; DiPalo, D., 1994-96; Chambers, B., 1994-98; Norbury, C., 1996-97; Diehl, A., 1997-99; Shi, F.D., 1999-2001; Berglund, P., 1999-2001; Wilson, J., 1999-2001; Wang, H.B., 2000-01; Screpanti, V., 2002-04; Applequist, S., 2000-06; Donati, D., 2002-06; Achour, A., 2002-04; Malmberg, K.J., 2003-06; Guimaraes, F., 2004-06; Wacnik, P.W., 2004-06; van Hall, T., 2005-06; Waering, M., 2004-07; Baumann, B., 2004-06; Fauriat, C., 2006-09; Bryceson, Y., 2008-10; Wood, S, 2009-; Anthoni, M., 2009-11; Braun, M., 2010-; Darmanin, S., 2010-12; Kekäläinen, E., 2012-14; Mjösberg, J., Sweden, 2012-13; Marquardt, N., 2013-17; Blom, K., 2016-; Cuapio, A., 2017-, Chen, P., 2020-

Selected collaborators, Karolinska Institutet

Evren Alici, NK cell-based immunotherapies, clinical trials, NK cell-tumor cell engagers, oncolytic viruses, small molecule NK cell modulators

Jakob Michaelsson, Tissue specific immunity, mRNA profiling of innate immune cells

Nicole Marquardt, Tissue specific immunity, flow-cytometry based profiling of innate immune cells

Kalle Malmberg, Development of NK cell-based immunotherapies for treatment of human cancer, clinical trials

Jonas Klingström, Immunity and Immunopathogenesis of human hantavirus infections

Sara Gredmark-Russ, Immunity and immunopathogenesis of human flavivirus and SARS-CoV-2 infection

Karin Loré, Immunity towards flavivirus and SARS-CoV-2 vaccines

Niklas Björkström, Immunity to and immunopathogenesis of human hepatitis and SARS-CoV-2 viruses

Soo Aleman, Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 viruses and vaccines

Kristoffer Strålin, Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 viruses

Marcus Buggert, T cell immunity to SARS-CoV-2 viruses and vaccines

Johan Sandberg, Innate T cell immunity to SARS-CoV viruses and vaccines

    Research support

    • Swedish Research Council
    • Swedish Cancer Society
    • Tobias Foundation
    • Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research
    • Karolinska Institutet
    • Stockholm County Council
    • Vinnova