The research focus of my academic group is on the mechanisms and application of protein trafficking pathways in bacteria. After my PhD research on the molecular details of bacteriocin secretion I became PI at the VU University Amsterdam and focused on application of the basic knowledge obtained to optimize heterologous protein secretion by E. coli. In 1991-1992 I worked as a visiting scientist in the lab of Bernhard Dobberstein at the EMBL in Heidelberg where I started characterization of a novel pathway for targeting of membrane proteins in bacteria, a topic that was continued upon return to Amsterdam.
This pathway partly overlaps with the type V secretion system that is used to secrete virulence factors across the cell envelope of Gram negative bacteria. Based on basic research we have modified this system into a versatile platform for high density surface display of heterologous antigens for the development of live vaccines and derived Outer Membrane Vesicles (OMVs). The OMVs have been further modified to constitute vaccine nanocarriers that are very immunogenic, safe to use, compatible with mucosal application and suitable for cost-effective and rapid response manufacture. This exploitation is done in the context of the spin-off company Abera Bioscience of which I am CSO. Proof-of-concept studies have shown promising protection data in both pneumococcal and ETEC preclinical challenge studies.