Anna Smed Sörensen group

Immunology and allergy

Group photo Anna Smed Sörensen
Group photo - Anna Smed Sörensen

Research focus

Respiratory and systemic immune responses in human pulmonary viral infection and inflammation

With every breath we expose our lungs to foreign material that our immune system needs to tolerate or fight. Therefore it may not be surprising that acute respiratory infections caused by inhaled viruses such as Influenza or Hanta viruses are the most frequent reason for medical consultations in the world, and these infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality also in Sweden. Since the early spring of 2020 the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic also has a major impact on every day life all over the world. Furthermore, inflammatory pulmonary diseases such as sarcoidosis result in higher mortality than that of the general population. Potent immune responses are critical to clear infection but also drive disease progress. A more detailed understanding of the initiation and regulation of immunity in these disease conditions is central to our capacity to advance prevention and treatment. Our research aims to understand the function/dysfunction of respiratory immune cells in the airways and lungs in different pulmonary disease conditions.

Infection or inflammation is often restricted to a particular site in the body and the immune cells are different depending on their anatomical distribution. Therefore, an important originality of our work is that we study immune cells of the respiratory system, the site of infection and inflammation. We work in close collaboration with physicians to collect respiratory tissue and fluid samples, as well as blood, and apply a range of sophisticated immunological and cell biological methods to understand the detailed function of the immune cells. If we can correlate the phenotype and function of the immune cells to clinical parameters, this project could aid in the identification of novel biomarkers, as well as prepare ground for new treatments for pulmonary conditions.

Key words: Human airway disease, Influenza, SARS-CoV-2, Hanta, Sarcoidosis, Immune response

Methods we are using:
We process a variety of tissue samples from human subjects (healthy controls and patients): blood, tonsils, nasopharyngeal and endotracheal aspirates, nostril swabs, saliva, bronchoalveolar lavage, bronchial wash, endobronchial biopsies, lymph nodes and lung tissue.
Techniques: Primary cell tissue culture, cell isolation and differentiation, functional in vitro assays, DC-T cell assays, multi-parametric flow cytometry, cell sorting, virus propagation and in vitro infection and neutralization assays, confocal microscopy, immunohistochemistry, STED microscopy, ELISA, Olink, Luminex, SomaScan, mass spec, quantitative RT-PCR, Western blot, ELISPOT, tSNE analysis, RNASeq.

This Week in Immunology-568: Podcast featuring Anna Smed Sörensen

Anna Smed Sörensen publications in PubMed

The Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation: Prins Daniels forskningsanslag till yngre lovande forskare 2018

Group leader

Anna Smed Sörensen

Principal researcher
K2 Department of Medicine, Solna

Anna did her undergraduate MSc studies in Molecular Biology at Uppsala universitetet. She received her PhD in Experimental Medicine from Karolinska Institutet in 2004 and thereafter did postdoctoral training at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA and Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA, USA. She returned to Karolinska Institutet in 2010 as assistant professor supported by a Marie Curie/Vinnmer fellowship from Vinnova. In 2014 she was recruited to the Department of Medicine Solna as a group leader and is associate professor in immunology since 2015.

Current group members

Meng Yu

PhD student
K2 Department of Medicine, Solna

Meng Yu has a BSc in Biological Sciences from the Jiaying University and a MSc in Veterinary Medicine at South China Agriculture University, China. He is the recipient of the scholarship from the China Scholarship Council to perform his PhD studies in our group since 2016, focusing on understanding the role of both innate immune cells like mononuclear phagocytes and adaptive immune cells including circulating follicular T helper cells and B cells in patients infected with influenza A virus or SARS-CoV-2. He also performs mechanistic in vitro studies to understand the antiviral effect of a genetically engineered banana lectin on influenza A virus infection of human dendritic cells.

Sara Falck-Jones

PhD student
K2 Department of Medicine, Solna

Sara joined the lab in 2017 during her medical degree project, focusing on influenza. Sara was awarded a Karolinska Clinical Scientist Training fellowship and is registered as a PhD student since 2018. She graduated from medical school at Karolinska Institutet in 2019 and has been working full-time with the influenza/SARS-CoV-2 project since then.

Björn Österberg

PhD student
K2 Department of Medicine, Solna

Björn joined the lab in 2019 as a medical student, first working on a research project on the role of cytokines in influenza. Since finishing his medical studies in 2021, Björn was selected for a KID funded PhD position and has been a full time PhD student, studying the role of mononuclear phagocytes in influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Afandi Charles

PhD student
K2 Department of Medicine, Solna

Charles obtained his BSc in Medical Science and MD degree in Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia (2017). He completed the MSc programme in Infection Biology at Uppsala University (2021) writing his thesis on circulating T follicular helper and B cells in viral respiratory diseases in the Smed-Sörensen group. Charles was selected for a KID funded PhD position and is registered as a PhD student since June 2021. His PhD project will focus on the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and Hantaviruses in vitro and in vivo to understand what immunological parameters dictate disease severity.

Julia Svensson

Research assistant
K2 Department of Medicine, Solna

Julia Svensson has a BSc and MSc in Biomedicine from Karolinska Institutet. During her studies she worked in several research labs, in projects related to psychological diseases, hereditary stroke and scar formation. She joined the lab in 2020 as a research assistant and has amongst other things been involved in processing patient samples, ELISAs etc. in the SARS-CoV-2 longitudinal study.

Jeanette Grundström

Laboratory manager
K2 Department of Medicine, Solna

Jeanette received her PhD in Medical Sciences from Karolinska Institutet in 2012. Her work was focused on immune mechanisms in allergy and allergy treatment until joining the group in 2021. As Lab Manager she is involved in many of the group's projects, administrative tasks and welcoming new members in the group.

Avinash Padhi

Postdoctoral researcher


Lida Azizmohammadi Medical student


Lida has been affiliated with the lab since 2020 and is primarily involved in our longitudinal patient studies on respiratory viral infections. Lida is the recipient of an introductory research fellowship from the Swedish Medical Association. In the fall of 2020, Lida did an advanced course in immunology, infection and tumor biology on a project focused on arginase-1 and thromboembolism in COVID-19 patients. In the spring of 2021, Lida did her semester 8 project in the group focused on neutrophils and antibody development in COVID-19 patients across disease severity.

Eric Åhlberg Medical student


Eric has been affiliated with the lab since 2019 and is primarily involved in our longitudinal patient studies on respiratory viral infections. Eric is the recipient of two introductory research fellowships from the Swedish Medical Association. In the spring of 2021, Eric did his semester 8 project in the group focused on cytokine expression and COVID-19 disease severity. Eric has also been selected for Karolinska Institutet’s summer research school and is continuing his project in the group.

Klara Lenart - PhD student, KI (Loré lab) co-supervised by Anna.
Elza Evren - PhD student, KI (Willinger lab) co-supervised by Anna.
Arlisa Alisjahbana - PhD student, KI (Willinger lab) co-supervised by Anna.

Current collaborators

(*shared supervision of PhD students)

Johan Grunewald* and Anders Eklund*,Karolinska Institutet: Immunological studies of human pulmonary sarcoidosis.
Jonas Klingström* and Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren*,Karolinska Institutet: Immunobiology of hantaviruses and SARS-CoV-2.
Tim Willinger*,Karolinska Institutet: Mononuclear phagocytes in the lung.
Marcus Buggert*,Karolinska Institutet: Adaptive immune responses during human viral infection and in the lung of healthy organ donors.
Nicole Marqurdt ,Karolinska Institutet: Studies of immune cells of the lung in fatal influenza and COVID-19.
Vicky Sender and  Birgitta Henriques-Normark, KI: Studies of influenza virus-pneumococci co-infections in mouse models and in human patient samples.
Karin Loré*,Karolinska Institutet: long-term collaborator on studies of immune responses during viral infection.
Anna Färnert*,Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset /KI: Studies to understand the local and systemic immune responses in patients with acute respiratory viral infection.
Clas Ahlm* and Mattias Forsell, Norrlands universitetssjukhus/Umeå universitet:immunological studies on Hantavirus infections and COVID-19.
Anders Blomberg*,Norrlands universitetssjukhus/Umeå universitet: bronchoscopy studies on healthy volunteers, sarcoidosis patients and hantavirus infected patients to study the phenotype and function of immune cells.
David Markovitz, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA: immunological studies of a genetically modified antiviral lectin in viral antigen-presentation by dcs to T cells.
Holden Maecker, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA: longitudinal analysis of plasma and respiratory samples from influenza virus or SARS-CoV-2 infected patients and healthy controls using Olink and multiplex viral antigen-antibody assays.

Previous group members

Post docs (years in Anna Smed Sörensen lab, and current position):
2020-21 Rico Lepzien. Clinical Research Associate, IQVIA, Stockholm.
2019-20 Sindhu Vangeti. Postdoc, Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai, NY, USA.
2017-18 Tomas Strandin. Research group leader, University of Helsinki, Finland.
2016-19 Sang Liu. Scientist, Innovent Biologics, China.
2016-17 Faezzah Baharom. Postdoc, NIH, Bethesda, USA.
2014-15 Jens Gertow. Head of marketing and sales, Mabtech, Stockholm.
2012-15 Saskia Scholz. Scientist, OMEICOS Therapeutics, Berlin, Germany.

PhD students, main supervisor* (years): Kimia Maleki (2021), Mu Nie*(2019-2021), Rico Lepzien* (2020), Sindhu Vangeti* (2019), Gustaf Lindgren (2019), Elizabeth Thompson (2018), Elisa Martini (2018), Faezzah Baharom (2016), Susanna Bächle (2015).

Students: Mona Eisele (Bachelor 2021), Klara Bringfors (Research summer school 2021), Eric Åhlberg (Medical 2021), Lida Azizmohammadi (Medical 2021), Afandi Charles (Master 2021), Farangies Ghafoor (Master 2020), Isabella Badolati (Master 2020), Isabell Wagner (Bachelor 2019), Björn Österberg (Medical 2018), Patric Rajala (Medical 2019), Klara Lenart (Bachelor 2018), Roosa Vaitiniemi (Medical 2018), Juliane Poelchen (Master 2017), Sara Falk (Medical 2017), Hanna Lindén (Rays scholar 2016), Adeline Mawa (Master 2016), Alexandra Sundell (Medical 2016), Kevin Fallahi (Medical 2016), Oliver Thomas (Master 2015), Rico Lepzien (Master 2015) Karin Wahlberg (Bachelor 2015), Joel Ågren (Master 2014), Tomas Buters (Master 2014), Julia Volz (Master 2013), Abdi Farah (Research summer school 2013), Andrea Bieder (Master 2011), Faezzah Baharom (Bachelor 2011),  Maria Hellmér (Bachelor 2011), Renata Utorova (Bachelor 2011), Gustaf Lindgren (Research summer school 2011).


We gratefully receive financial support for our research from several organizations, currently from:

  • The Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet
  • The Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, Hjärt-Lungfonden (projektanslag, forskartjänst,
    Prins Daniels forskningsanslag för yngre lovande forskare)
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Karolinska Institutet (KID medel, CSTP and senior forskartjänst)
  • Wallenberg SciLifeLabs Bioinformatics Long term support
  • The Swedish Medical Association, Svenska Läkaresällskapet

Open positions and thesis projects

We are always looking for exceptional researchers and students to join our research group.
We also welcome Medical (semester 8) or Master students who want to undertake a research
project to work in our ongoing studies. Please contact the group leader:

Selected interviews and podcasts

Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council) podcast "För en klokare värld”:

Forskning med fokus på covid-19 – möt fyra forskare och forskningsminister Matilda Ernkrans

Selected publications

Functional monocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells increase in blood but not airways and predict COVID-19 severity
Falck-Jones S, Vangeti S, Yu M, Falck-Jones R, Cagigi A, Badolati I, Österberg B, Lautenbach MJ, Åhlberg E, Lin A, Lepzien R, Szurgot I, Lenart K, Hellgren F, Maecker H, Sälde J, Albert J, Johansson N, Bell M, Loré K, Färnert A, Smed-Sörensen A
J Clin Invest. 2021 Mar 15;131(6)

Monocytes in sarcoidosis are potent TNF producers and predict disease outcome
Lepzien R, Liu S, Czarnewski P, Nie M, Österberg B, Baharom F, Pourazar J, Rankin G, Eklund A, Bottai M, Kullberg S, Blomberg A, Grunewald J, Smed-Sörensen A
Eur Respir J. 2021 Jan 14:2003468

Monocyte subset redistribution from blood to kidneys in patients with Puumala virus caused hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome
Vangeti S, Strandin T, Liu S, Tauriainen J, Räisänen-Sokolowski A, Cabrera L, Hassinen A, Mäkelä S, Mustonen J, Vaheri A, Vapalahti O, Klingström J, Smed-Sörensen A
PLoS Pathog. 2021 Mar; 17(3)

Human Blood and Tonsil Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells Display Similar Gene Expression Profiles but Exhibit Differential Type I IFN Responses to Influenza A Virus Infection
Vangeti S, Gertow J, Yu M, Liu S, Baharom F, Scholz S, Fridberg D, Starkhammar M, Ahlberg A, Smed Sörensen A
J Immunol. 2019 Apr; 202(7):2069-2081

Mapping mononuclear phagocytes in blood, lungs, and lymph nodes of sarcoidosis patients
Lepzien R, Rankin G, Pourazar J, Muala A, Eklund A, Grunewald J, Blomberg A, Smed-Sörensen A
J Leukoc Biol. 2019 Apr; 105(4): 797-807

Anna Smed Sörensen publications in PubMed