Nico Callewaert Lab

Research focus

Based on strengths in glycobiology, microbial biotechnology, biological system's engineering and bio-analytics, our research group is developing innovative molecular technology to enable novel approaches to the study, diagnosis and treatment of disease.

At the moment, our strategic technology development focuses on the eukaryotic cell’s secretory system as a basis for the discovery and development of novel biopharmaceutical concepts. We are also developing new molecular analytical technology for the discovery of blood plasma/serum biomarkers of disease, as well as immunotherapy targets on cells. For example, we discovered new markers for the non-invasive monitoring of liver disease, and these markers are now being validated and translated into routinely applicable diagnostic tests. We are also investigating and engineering the interaction between the tuberculosis vaccine (Mycobacterium bovis BCG) and the immune system, for the purpose of designing a fully protective TB vaccine, which is a major and urgent global public health need.

Our research is always inspired by a rigorous scientific, medical, technological and even economical analysis of  particular important unmet medical needs, but then we take a long-term fundamental biotechnology approach to design systems and methodologies that could solve these needs. Often, our fundamental biotechnology research then generates concepts and tools that turn out to enable steps forward also in sometimes entirely different areas of medical research, diagnosis and treatment. This then feeds new projects in the lab. Research in the lab is thus not focused on one particular disease area: we go where our technological innovation can bring the biggest impact. We collaborate with disease area experts as well as biotech and pharma companies active in particular medical areas.

In addition to leading his own research lab, Nico Callewaert accepted the position of Director of the VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology as of 2014, where he is focusing the Center as a VIB innovation hub in molecular biomedical technology.

> video on the development of new technologies, research by Nico Callewaert - ©VIB, 2014​


Endoglycosidase S Enables a Highly Simplified Clinical Chemistry Procedure for Direct Assessment of Serum IgG Undergalactosylation in Chronic Inflammatory DiseaseVanderschaeghe D* Meuris L* Raes T Grootaert H Van Hecke A Verhelst X Van De Velde F Lapauw B Van Vlierberghe H Callewaert NMOLECULAR & CELLULAR PROTEOMICS, 17, 2507-2517, 2018* These authors contributed equally
Using GlycoDelete to produce proteins lacking plant-specific N-glycan modification in seedsPiron R, Santens F, De Paepe A, Depicker A, Callewaert NNATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, 33, 1135-7, 2015
Genome dynamics of the human embryonic kidney 293 lineage in response to cell biology manipulationsLin Y, Boone M, Meuris L, Lemmens I, Van Roy N, Soete A, Reumers J, Moisse M, Plaisance S, Drmanac R, Chen J, Speleman F, Lambrechts D, Van de Peer Y, Tavernier J, Callewaert NNature Communications, 5, 4767, 2014
A bacterial glycosidase enables mannose-6-phosphate modification and improved cellular uptake of yeast-produced recombinant human lysosomal enzymesTiels P, Baranova E, Piens K, De Visscher C, Pynaert G, Nerinckx W, Stout J, Fudalej F, Hulpiau P, Tannler S, Geysens S, Van Hecke A, Valevska A, Vervecken W, Remaut H, Callewaert NNATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, 30, 1225-31, 2012
Disruption of the SapM locus in Mycobacterium bovis BCG improves its protective efficacy as a vaccine against M. tuberculosisFestjens N, Bogaert P, Batni A, Houthuys E, Plets E, Vanderschaeghe D, Laukens B, Asselbergh B, Parthoens E, De Rycke R, Willart M, Jacques P, Elewaut D, Brouckaert P, Lambrecht B, Huygen K, Callewaert NEMBO Molecular Medicine, 3, 222-34, 2011

Job openings


3 projects selected in VIB grand challenges program, additional projects may follow after new call

17/09/2018 - The VIB Grand Challenges Program is a translational research program with which we aim to significantly increase the societal impact of VIB. We are convinced that this can be done by teaming up with experts outside VIB who have complementary expertise.

VIB pushes the boundaries of science to develop new diagnostic tools

27/07/2017 - With their world-leading strengths in molecular research and biotechnology, various VIB labs are paving the way for novel diagnostic tools that will reduce disease burden and save lives by making disease diagnosis better, faster and more flexible.

Helena Biosciences to develop automated blood test for chronic liver disease based on VIB and Ghent University research

16/05/2017 - Helena Biosciences announced today that it is commercialising a new blood test for Chronic Liver Disease (CLD) in cooperation with the Ghent University branch of VIB – the life sciences research institute of Flanders, Belgium.

Technology: the tools and methods to observe and to intervene in Nature

09/07/2016 - In molecular life sciences, the incredible ingenuity of scientists and engineers such as those at VIB leads to increasingly accurate analytical methods. These are used to study the structure of the molecules that make up living matter.

Turning plant seeds into medicine factories

29/04/2016 - By jointly applying the GlycoDelete technology to plant seeds, the researchers have demonstrated that plant seeds can serve as a medium for the inexpensive and large-scale production of biotech medicines.

VIB/UGent researchers enable safer production of biotech medicines using plant seeds

01/12/2015 - The VIB and Ghent University professors Ann Depicker and Nico Callewaert have achieved a significant biotechnology breakthrough that targets the production of medicines.

Simple blood test measures risk of liver cancer

27/10/2015 - ​Researchers in Ghent have developed a test to measure the risk of liver cancer in people with cirrhosis of the liver. Their work will be revealed this week at United European Gastroenterology.

Interview new department director Nico Callewaert - continued

17/06/2014 - After a long and open international search, it was finally one of our own, Nico Callewaert, who was selected as the most suitable candidate for the position of Director of the VIB Department of Medical Protein Research (DMPR) at UGent.

Preview interview new department director Nico Callewaert

12/06/2014 - After a long and open international search, it was finally one of our own, Nico Callewaert, who was selected as the most suitable candidate for the position of Director of the VIB Department of Medical Protein Research (DMPR) at UGent.

New technology simplifies production of biotech medicines

14/05/2014 - Leander Meuris, Francis Santens and Nico Callewaert (VIB/UGent) have developed a technology that shortens the sugar structures. This technology has the potential to make the production of biotech medicines significantly simpler and cheaper.

ERC-grants for three VIB scientists: boost for innovative research

09/12/2013 - ERC-grants grants for three VIB scientists: boost for innovative research

Flemish scientist Nico Callewaert (VIB-UGent) in Top 20 Translational Researchers

11/09/2013 - Nico Callewaert (VIB/UGent) is the only Belgian in the “Top 20 translational researchers”. He was selected partly due to his research into converting cells into medicine factories.

Efficacy of tuberculosis vaccine enhanced by VIB scientists

17/02/2011 - Nele Festjens and Nico Callewaert have improved the efficacy of the vaccine for tuberculosis. The new vaccine affords - as already proven in mice - better protection against the disease.

New test improves detection of liver cancer

07/08/2007 - VIB researchers connected to Ghent University, in collaboration with research centers in Beijing and Shanghai in China, have developed a test to detect liver cancer in an early stage.

Nico Callewaert

Nico Callewaert

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​​PhD: Univ. of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium, 2002
Postdoc.: ETH, Zürich, Switzerland, 2002-05
VIB Group leader since 2005
VIB Science Director since 2014

Contact Info

VIB-UGent Center for Medical BiotechnologyUGent-VIB Research Building FSVMTechnologiepark 927 9052 GENT
nico.callewaert*Replace*With*At*Sign*ugent.vib.bePhone: +32 9 331 36 30/ 264 93 03