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 study, diagnose and treat immune-system related disease. We exploit the developed technologies for our own research interests in inflammation and immunity, in collaboration with experts within and outside of DMBR. For development and exploitation of our technologies in other fields, we collaborate intensively with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry.  At the moment, our strategic technology development focuses on microbial cell engineering as a basis for the discovery and development of novel immunomodulatory biopharmaceuticals. We are also developing new glyco-analysis tools and animal models to pursue the role of inflammation-induced lymphocyte glycosylation changes in the pathophysiology of inflammatory disease.
For example, we discovered new markers for the non-invasive monitoring of progression of chronic inflammatory diseases (focused on the liver), and these markers are now being validated and translated into routinely applicable diagnostic tests. We are also pursuing potential links between the discovered biomarkers and pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory disease.
We are also investigating and engineering the interaction between the tuberculosis vaccine (Mycobacterium bovis BCG) and the immune system, leading to a novel vaccine.
To enable the production of specific glycoforms of immune effector proteins  (cytokines, antibodies) with customized  therapeutic functions, and to allow more 
robust membrane protein expression, we are engineering the eukaryotic protein secretion system in yeasts and mammalian cells. These technologies will allow the development of more potent and selective therapies of immune system-related diseases.

In addition to leading his own research lab, Nico Callewaert accepted the position of Department Director of the VIB's Medical Biotechnology Center as of 1 May 2014.

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


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
Genome sequence of the recombinant protein production host Pichia pastorisDe Schutter K, Lin Y, Tiels P, Van Hecke A, Glinka S, Weber-Lehmann J, Rouzé P, Van de Peer Y, Callewaert NNATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, 27, 561-6, 2009


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.

New technology for a more efficient treatment of Pompe disease and other metabolic disorders

19/11/2012 - VIB researchers from UGent and Vrije Universiteit Brussel , together with a team of the firm Oxyrane have developed a new technology that can lead to a more efficient and possibly also cheaper therapy for diseases such as Pompe disease.

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 Department Director VIB Medical Biotechnology Center since May 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