Kalle Malmberg group - Natural Killer Cell Biology and Cell Therapy

The group studies the molecular and cellular basis for NK cell differentiation and repertoire formation in health and disease.

Summary of research

The Malmberg lab focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the formation and diversification of human NK cell repertories. A central aspect of these studies is to examine the dynamic shaping of NK cell function by killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR). We are using a wide range of single cell technologies and imaging tools to study the genetic regulatory circuits involved in shaping the interior of the NK cell, with a primary focus is on lysosomal signaling. 

In more translational efforts, we seek to develop an off-the-shelf NK cell therapy platform and implement new insights into NK cell biology in clinical trials for patients with advanced cancer. The research group is based both at the Oslo University Hospital and at Karolinska Institutet.


In a film produced by Cancerfonden, Professor Kalle Malmberg talks about the group's research and explains how it is possible to teach the immune system to take on cancer cells (in Swedish).


NK cells, killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors, KIR, allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, immunotherapy, cell therapy

Selected publications and Twitter

Group leader

Karl-Johan Malmberg   

Professor, Group Leader

Karl-Johan Malmberg received his M.D. (2000) and PhD (2003) from Karolinska Institutet. He is a specialist in Hematology and currently hold a position as Professor of Immunology at the University of Oslo, Norway and is a Visiting Professor in Cell-Based Cancer Immunotherapy at the Karolinska Institutet.

Karl-Johan Malmberg is Co-Director of the Department of Cancer immunology, Institute for cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital (OUH). Since 2019 he leads StratCell, a strategic research program at the OUH. Karl-Johan is also the Co-Director of the recently formed competence center in NK cell therapy, funded by Vinnova physically located at the Department of Medicine Huddinge at Karolinska Institutet.

KI team

Karl-Johan Malmberg

Professor, Group Leader

Ebba Sohlberg

PhD, Project Manager

Ebba completed her PhD at Stockholm University on the neonatal innate immune system and herpesviruses. After a post-doc in the group, Ebba is now Project Manager, continuing her work in the field of NK-cell immunotherapy and translating findings into new patient treatments and clinical studies. When not at work, Ebba enjoys going to museums and concerts.

Quirin Hammer

PhD, Postdoctoral fellow, Team Leader

Quirin Hammer is leading a team in the Kalle Malmberg group, that investigates molecular mechanisms that regulate innate immune cell responses.

Quirin completed his PhD at the German Rheumatism Research Centre and the Humboldt University of Berlin in 2018. During his PhD, he studied host-pathogen interactions between human natural killer cells and cytomegalovirus. His work focuses on developing next-generation NK cell immunotherapy against cancer. When not at work, Quirin enjoys learning chess, having coffee, and socializing.

Pilar Lanuza Morte

Postdoctoral fellow

Pilar completed her PhD at the University of Zaragoza in 2020. During her PhD, she aimed at improving NK cell immunotherapy against solid tumours with drug resistance mutations. She is now a post-doc in the group and her work focuses on NK cell tuning to develop new strategies for NK cell-based immunotherapy. When not at work Pilar enjoys nature activities, music, and reading.

Alvaro Haroun-Izquierdo

PhD student

Alvaro obtained his Masters degree in Genetics from the University of Glasgow, UK in 2016. He is now a PhD student in the group and his work focuses on understanding basic principles governing NK cell cytotoxicity with the specific goal of applying this knowledge to NK-cell immunotherapy approaches. In his free-time he enjoys cooking, reading, and downhill skiing.

Pouria Momayyezi

PhD student
PhD student

Pouria received his medical degree from Karolinska Institute in 2015 and is currently a resident in Hematology at the Karolinska University hospital. His PhD studies concern next-generation NK-cell immunotherapy, specifically prolonging the survival of transferred NK cells in patients receiving immunotherapy. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, reading, watching football and experiencing different forms of art, preferably with friends and family.

Petra Balbi

Master student

Petra is completing her master’s degree in interdisciplinary sciences at ETH Zürich and has written her bachelor-thesis on the effects of PTMs on p53 dynamics and signalling at Harvard Medical School in Boston. She is now joining the Malmberg lab to conduct her master-thesis, investigating cellular and molecular mechanisms behind NK cell education. In her spare time Petra enjoys all kinds of dancing and playing music, as well as  being active outdoors, particularly skiing and climbing.

Affiliated Scientists

Andreas Björklund

MD, PhD, Specialist in Hematology and Internal medicine

Andreas is working at the unit for cell therapy and allogeneic stem cell transplantation (CAST) at the Karolinska University hospital.

During his PhD he focused on NK cell maturation and education after allogeneic stem cell transplantation and the impact on relapse risk, infections and GVHD. He was the clinical PI of the Malmberg teams’ first NK cell therapy trial. He is now preparing the coming study using adaptive NK cells against chemorefractory AML and MDS.

Andreas is also interested in understanding the regulatory immune environment and the tumor immune niche in relation to different adoptive cell therapies.

Marie Schaffer

PhD, Co-director HLA lab at the Clinical Immunology dept. Karolinska University Hospital

Marie completed her PhD at Karolinska Institutet in 2006. The subject was on HLA and KIR polymorphism in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Since many years she is working at the Clinical Immunology department, where she has the technical responsibility for all HLA-typings related to transplantation. When not at work, Marie enjoys several cultural activities such as singing in choir, reading, watching films and exhibitions.

OUS team

Project Manager

Lise Kveberg

Lab managers

Hanne Julie Hoel, Merete Thune Wiiger

Senior engineer

Silje Zandstra Krokeide

Postdoctoral fellows

Minoru Kanaya, Mizuha Kosugi-Kanaya, Artur Cieslar-Pobuda, Edina Szabo, Rakesh Kumar

Immune informatics and computational biology

Trevor Clancy, Herman Netskar

Ph.D. Candidates

Dennis Clement, Eivind Heggernes Ask, Daniel Alfredo Palacios Orellana, Michelle Lu Sætersmoen, Camille Philippon, Marianna Vincenti, Thorstein Boxaspen

Guest scientist

Mieszko Lachota

Previous Malmberg lab members

  • Sandra Anderson
  • Bettina Baumann
  • Axel Berg-Larsen 
  • Vivien Beziat
  • Mattias Carlsten
  • Kishan Kumar Chudasama
  • Monika Enqvist
  • Cyril Fauriat
  • Jodie Peter Goodridge
  • Benedikt Jakobs
  • Lisa Liu
  • Vincent Oei
  • Yi Sheng
  • Astrid Tschan Plessl
  • Veronika Kremer
  • Aline Pfefferle
  • Shuo-Li
  • Oisin Huhn
Malmberg group

Open positions

We always want to get in touch with highly motivated students and potential post-docs. If you are interested in doing research within our group please contact the Group leader

Financial support A-Z




EU Horizon 2020

Fate Therapeutics