dr. Nele Festjens (PhD)

CRIG member
Nele Festjens

Staff scientist – Nico Callewaert lab – VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology
Principal investigator: prof. Nico Callewaert (PhD)


Research focus

Genomic engineering of CD8 T-lymphocytes is currently extensively exploited in the field of cancer immunotherapy. In this application, the patient’s own immune cells are adapted to render them more potent as a therapy to treat cancer. Despite some great breakthroughs in this field in the last couple of years, improvements are necessary in both efficiency, specificity and safety. Attempts are being made to engineer the immune cells in such a way that the cytotoxic activity towards tumor cells is enhanced.
In our project, a CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering method is being developed to induce mutations in a specific pathway in these CD8 T-lymphocytes. The structure and function of the altered T-cells is being investigated in vitro and subsequently in vivo in a cancer model in humanized mice in order to evaluate whether the induced T-cell alterations could possibly render the T-lymphocytes more cytotoxic towards cancer cells.


  • Master in Biotechnology (UGent, 2000)
  • PhD in Biotechnology in the lab of prof. dr. Peter Vandenabeele (UGent, 2006)
  • Post-doctoral research fellow in the lab of prof. dr. Nico Callewaert (UGent, 2006-2007)
  • FWO post-doctoral research fellow in the lab of prof. dr. Nico Callewaert (2007-2014)
  • Staff scientist in the lab of prof. dr. Nico Callewaert (2014-present)

Key publications

  • ‘Human T cell glycosylation and implications on immune therapy for cancer’. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 2020. (DOI: 10.1080/21645515.2020.1730658)

Contact & links