Dr. Xavier Saelens obtained his PhD degree from the University of Ghent (Ghent, Belgium) in 1990 in the laboratory of Walter Fiers. After postdoctoral training in the influenza research group of Willy Min Jou, and in the Molecular Signaling and Cell Death group of Peter Vandenabeele, both at Ghent University, he became an assistant professor in Molecular Virology in 2008. Currently, he is a full professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Ghent University and a principle investigator at the VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology.
The research team of Xavier Saelens applies modern biotechnology methods to develop new vaccines and antivirals against important human respiratory viruses such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and, more recently, coronaviruses. In addition, his group uses interactomics tools to gain new insights in the molecular interplay between host and viral factors.
His research group pioneered the development of a universal influenza A vaccine candidate based on the viral matrix protein 2 and elucidated it’s mechanism of protection. More recently, his team proposed a new human respiratory syncytial vaccine candidate that is based on the small hydrophobic protein of this virus. This vaccine candidate has successfully passed a Phase I clinical study. The group also develops single domain antibodies and formats thereof as new candidate biologics to control infections by human respiratory viruses. A recently started research focus point is the development of respiratory delivery technologies for antibody-based antivirals.
In 2015 he received the biennial price in Virology from the Study Centre Princess Joséphine- Charlotte from the Flanders and Walloon Research Foundations of Belgium. In 2019 and 2020 Xavier Saelens obtained excellence awards from VIB for outstanding scientific and technology transfer output.
He is a board member and the treasurer of the Belgian Society for Microbiology and member of the board of the International Society for Vaccines where he has contributed in many ways to the society.
Professor Margaret A. Liu, obtained an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, a B.A. in Chemistry, summa cum laude, from Colorado College, and passed the Epreuve pour le Diplôme d’Enseignement, à l’unanimité (judges’ unanimous decision), in piano from the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, and is the recipient of an honorary Medical Degree (MD honoris causa) from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and an honorary Doctorate of Science from Colorado College. She completed Internship and Residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Endocrinology, all at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. She received Board Certification in Internal Medicine and in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Dr. Liu was a Visiting Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Instructor at Harvard Medical School, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, a Visiting Professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and the recipient of an NIH Physician Scientist Award. She served as Senior Director at Merck Research Laboratories, Vice President of Vaccines Research and Gene Therapy at Chiron Corporation, Vice-Chairman of Transgène, Senior Advisor in Vaccinology at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Executive Vice-Chair of the International Vaccine Institute, and was on the US NIH NIAID Council.
Her research has focused on novel technologies for vaccines and immune treatments for cancer. She pioneered the development of DNA vaccines, which are now in clinical trials for many human diseases and are licensed for several veterinary applications. She also was an innovator in the field of bispecific antibodies to activate T cells for tumor cell killing. The Nobel Committee invited her to lecture in the Karolinska Research Lecture series, and she was named by Discover magazine as one of the 50 most important female scientists. She consults world-wide for companies, investment firms, non-governmental organizations, and governmental scientific advisory bodies, and has held positions as an Adjunct Professor at UCSF, and as a Foreign Adjunct Professor at the Karolinska Institutet. Dr. Liu was previously the President of the International Society for Vaccines for the 2015- 2017 term, then President Emerita, and is currently the Chairman of the Board of ISV (2020-2021).
Dr. Rhee is a Professor of Microbiology at Chonnam National University Medical School where is Korea Chief. He also is the Director of the National Research Laboratory of Molecular Microbial Pathogenesis and the Director of the Research Institute for Vibrio Infections at the Clinical Vaccine R&D Institute in South Korea.
Dr. Rhee graduated from the Chonnam National University Medical School and received his PhD from the same university. He has spent the last 20+ years working on the molecular pathogenesis of Vibrio vulnificus infections. His laboratory has recorded V. vulnificus-host interactions using molecular and cellular microbiological tools. In 2002, he reported the whole genome sequence of CMCP6 which became one of the standard strains in our research field. Virulence regulatory roles of ToxRS, cAMP-CRP, LuxS quorum sensing, and HlyU were also documented by graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in his laboratory that he has mentored over his career. Since the early 2000s, he has focused on the genes preferentially expressed while the pathogen is interacting with host animals. Recently, he had the fortune of solving the puzzle of cytotoxic mechanism exerted by V. vulnificus which proved that a RTX toxin is the major exotoxin responsible for the hallmark cytotoxic activity and triggers a programmed necrotic cell death mechanism.