Markus Ollert

Professor, M.D.

    • rue Henri Koch, 29

      4354 Esch-Sur-Alzette

      Luxembourg

    • 12748
      Citations
    1986 …2024

    Research activity per year

    Personal profile

    Research interests

    As a clinician scientist with board certifications obtained after clinical specialization trainings in Dermatology and in Allergology, I always had a passion for immunology research during my career. A better understanding of deviated immune pathways leading to diseases in humans and of how to revert or even prevent disease onset has been a major driving force of my scientific agenda from the first days when I started research as a doctoral candidate. My passion in the last 20 years have been allergic diseases, an epidemic mainly caused by modern life-style and environmental factors that is affecting more than 40% of people in Luxembourg (Czolk et al., Clin Transl Allergy, 2023) and other modern societies. Allergic diseases, also known as T2 immune diseases, create not only a high medical need, especially in younger generations, but also a very high economic burden with loss of productivity and opportunities. My vision is to contribute with our research to a world with lesser, less severe or even no allergies, by successfully implementing primary prevention and cure for most allergic diseases. Peripheral immune tolerance induction through either allergen-specific immunotherapy (AIT) or primary vaccination against allergy, which are focus themes of our research, are ideally tailored to reach these ambitious goals of sustainable allergy prevention and cure, thus contributing not only to a better life of individuals, but to improved societal health overall in the future.

    My research group, the Translational and Clinical Immunology (TCI) group, has its major focus on the mechanisms of maintenance/loss of peripheral immune tolerance to allergens/autoantigens and how to successfully re-install antigen tolerance through antigen-specific intervention such as AIT; in addition, we want to define early stage molecular biomarkers for disease prediction, prevention and therapy outcome. Research of the TCI group members has gained strong international visibility. Group members receive regular invitations as speakers to high-profile scientific meetings or academic sites, and to international panels of scientific academies or funding bodies.

    Other research angles of the TCI Group that are important to immune homeostasis and immune regulation are mainly pursued by Dr. Feng He (Hefeng), who joined the TCI Group as senior scientist in 2022 through funding via the CoVaLux project (Long-COVID research). Feng He and his national and international collaborators have begun to unravel the complex links between a key Parkinson’s disease gene and the functionality of specialized T cells with regulatory suppressive functions during ageing. The findings may provide a new target for therapies looking to restore balance in a dysregulated immune system in many non-communicable ageing-related diseases. The study was published in May 2022 in Nature Metabolism under the full title “PARK7/DJ-1 promotes pyruvate dehydrogenase activity and maintains Treg homeostasis during ageing” (Danileviciute, Zeng et al., Nature Metabolism, 2022). This study and a related publication (Zeng et al., EMBO Reports, 2022) were based on a very close interaction with Prof. Rejko Krüger (Translational Transversal Medicine LIH) and the FNR-funded National Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s Disease Research (NCER-PD). The intriguing findings in genetic PD patients triggered Feng, Rejko and myself to search for early disease predictive biomarkers in the peripheral immune system of idiopathic PD patients. Our highly promising findings have just been accepted for publication under the title “Early-to-mid stage idiopathic Parkinson’s disease shows female-biased enhanced cytotoxicity and accelerated differentiation in CD8 T- cells” (Capelle et al., Nature Communications, 2023). 

    During the national effort in Luxembourg against the COVID-19 pandemic, the TCI Team has been heading the diagnostic work package (WP04) of the COVID-19 Task Force Research Luxembourg. Group members contributed to the development of key strategic efforts in Luxembourg during the pandemic. TCI and other DII-LIH groups were key to the Large-Scale-Testing (LST) PCR testing program that was established in Luxembourg from May 2020 on (Wilmes et al., Lancet Regional Health Europe, 2021). This allowed to get unique access to PCR-positive asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 patients and to prospectively recruit them into the longitudinal Predi-COVID study that was initiated simultaneously. This endorsed us to create a rich resource to fully explore and understand all essential facets of the early-stage and dynamic immunological changes following recent SARS-CoV-2 infection in mild COVID patients, using an unbiased, combinatorial and prospective approach (Capelle et al., Cell Reports Medicine, 2022). Based on the available resources of Predi-COVID research at the LIH and in Luxembourg, COVID research continued from 2022 on, with a significant contribution of the TCI Lab, under the umbrella of CoVaLux (COVID-19, Vaccination & long-term health consequences of COVID-19 in Luxembourg). CoVaLux is a national research effort with a particular focus on vaccination efficacy and Long COVID, where the TCI group is the immunology lead as in Predi-COVID and in the longitudinal COVID population cohort CONVINCE. Looking back, I feel fortunate to have been engaged in multiple COVID-19 projects during and after the pandemic at the LIH, working with scientists from multiple disciplines inside and outside the LIH. These efforts helped Luxembourg to outperform all other EU&UK countries in economic aspects and COVID-excess mortality, as shown in a WHO study (Msemburi et al., Nature, 613, 130-137). Numerous contacts with political stakeholders, the lay public and journalists from all media took place regularly, explaining the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the factors of the immune system and vaccination against COVID-19 in multiple rounds. Political and institutional decision makers, healthcare professionals and lay persons were educated and trained about COVID-19 vaccination before the start and early during the vaccination campaign in Luxembourg in late 2020/beginning of 2021.

    Biosketch

    I am the inaugural Director of the Department of Infection and Immunity (DII), Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), since September 2014, where I am leading basic and translational research with a focus on immune-related disorders including viral infection, autoimmunity, asthma, allergic rhinitis, anaphylaxis and neurodegeneration. I was appointed as full professor in Clinical Allergology and Faculty Member at Odense University Hospital of the University of Southern Denmark in January 2015. Before coming to Luxembourg, I was offered and accepted my first full professorship in Molecular Dermatology and Immunology at Technische Universität München (TUM), Munich, Germany, in 2000, where I was also the vice-chair of the Clinical Department of Dermatology and Allergy in the University Medical Center of TUM from 2006-2014 and the Head of a Clinical Research Group funded by the German Ministry of Research (BMBF), one of 5 national centres of excellence in allergy research, at TUM and the Helmholtz Center Munich (2000-2014). From 2019-2022, I was member-at-large in the Executive Committee of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), the largest allergy and clinical immunology society worldwide with more than 15,000 members. For the current term 2022-2024, I am the Vice-President Science of EAACI.

    Since 2000, I have pioneered a relevant line of translational research allowing to fill important missing gaps between laboratory research and molecular diagnostics for patients with severe allergic diseases. As part of my activities in this field, I have served as chairperson of the Interest Group (IG) Allergy Diagnosis (IGAD) within EAACI. During my tenure, I initiated the Task Force on Molecular Allergology that published the world’s first comprehensive Users’ Guide on Molecular Allergology for allergy healthcare professionals as senior author and editor in 2016 (highly cited paper award in Web of Science).

    As an entrepreneur from academia, I co-founded Protein-Ligand-Structural Design (PLS-Design GmbH) in Hamburg, Germany as a start-up of the Universities of Hamburg and of the TUM, Munich in 2004. PLS-Design became a leader in providing molecular diagnostic solutions for patients with severe allergic reactions caused by stinging insects such as honeybees and wasps. The technologies developed by PLS-Design were successfully licensed to diagnostic leaders in the field and are now marketed immunoassays for the diagnosis of insect venom allergy in the product portfolio of ThermoFisher/Phadia, Uppsala, Sweden. In 2016, I co-founded Tolerogenics SàrL in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, out of the LIH, dedicated to provide improved therapeutic solutions for the increasing societal burden of allergic diseases.

    In September 2022, I was awarded at the 17th German Allergy Congress (Wiesbaden, Germany) with the Erich Fuchs-Prize 2022, a lifetime achievement award of the Association of German Allergologists (AeDA) in recognition of individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to science and education in allergy and clinical immunology. With this award, I am following in the footsteps of Prof. Cezmi Akdis, the director of the Swiss Institute of Allergy Research SIAF (Davos/Zurich, Switzerland), who received the Erich Fuchs-Prize in 2021, and of other renowned international scientists in the field, who were honored previously.

    Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
    • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
    • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
    • SDG 13 - Climate Action

    Education/Academic qualification

    HDR, Habilitation Dr. med. habil., Technische Universität München

    1 Jan 199614 Jul 1999

    Award Date: 14 Jul 1999

    PhD, Doctorate in Medicine (Dr. med.) - DMSci (medical PhD), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

    1 May 19848 Oct 1987

    Award Date: 8 Oct 1987

    Medical State Exam after Studies of Human Medicine, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

    1 Nov 198015 May 1987

    Award Date: 15 May 1987

    External positions

    Professor of Clinical Allergology and Faculty Member, University of Southern Denmark (Syddansk Universitet – SDU), Department of Dermatology and Allergy Center, Odense Research Centre for Anaphylaxis (ORCA), Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark, University of Southern Denmark

    1 Jan 2015 → …

    Vice Chairman (Leitender Oberarzt), Department of Dermatology and Allergy, Biederstein, Technische Universität München (TUM), Munich, Germany, KLINIKUM RECHTS DER ISAR DER TECHNISCHEN UNIVERSITAT MUNCHEN

    1 Jan 200631 Dec 2014

    Appointment as Full Professor (C3) of Molecular Dermatology and Immunology, Technische Universität München (TUM), Munich, Germany, KLINIKUM RECHTS DER ISAR DER TECHNISCHEN UNIVERSITAT MUNCHEN

    15 Nov 200031 Dec 2014

    Keywords

    • RL Dermatology
    • Immunology & allergy
    • immune tolerance
    • T2 immunity
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Microbiome
    • Epithelial Barrier
    • Healthy nutrition

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