Menno C. van Zelm, PhD

Menno C. van Zelm, PhD

Professor in Molecular Immunology
Humoral Immune Memory (HUM) Research Group

Research overview

B cells are a critical component of the human immune system, producing antibodies to combat infection and long-lived memory cells to protect against disease upon secondary infection, often for life. However, abnormalities in B cell development or function can lead to immunodeficiency, autoimmunity and allergic diseases. The outcomes of immunization and treatment of immune-mediated diseases are unpredictable, largely inefficient and empirical, posing a large societal burden via life-long therapy and infection susceptibility. Molecular insights into the pathways underlying the formation, durability and plasticity of immune memory are needed to overcome the limitations in current intervention strategies.

Research aims

In the past 8 years at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, our group has developed, patented and applied new technologies to ex vivo evaluate antigen-specific, human B-cell memory following infection, vaccination and treatment intervention. Between the two sister laboratories at Monash University (Allergy and Clinical Immunology; ACI) and Erasmus MC (Humoral Immune Memory; HUM), we will apply these new technologies for quantitative measurements of immune memory and thereby systematize the provision and use of an evidence base for clinical care and assessing vaccination strategies.

Current Research

Current research lines include:

  1. Defining the contribution of rare and common genetic variants to the severity and heterogeneity of disease in patients with predominantly antibody deficiency
    ACI team; collaboration with PID
  2. The impact of early-life exposures such as persistent viral infections, intestinal microbiota, stress, Vitamins D T-cell and B-cell memory, and their risk for developing immune-mediated diseases (esp. Celiac disease and allergies)
    HUM team in collaboration with the Generation R Study
  3. Abnormal IgE responses and memory B cells in allergic asthma and anaphylaxis, and how IgG induced by allergen-specific immunotherapy inhibits IgE-mediated effector cell activation.
    HUM and ACI teams
  4. Diversity, specificity and durability of B-cell memory following vaccination or natural infection with zoonotic viruses (influenza, SARS-CoV-2)
    HUM and ACI teams

Major achievements in the past years

  1. Dissecting stepwise differentiation of precursor-B cells in bone marrow, the regulation of Ig gene rearrangements including the roles of IL7R signaling and ID2 (J Immunol 2005;175:5912-5922Cell 2008;133:265-79; Cell 2009;238:435-448Blood 2011;118:2116-2127; J Immunol 2013;191:1210-1219Nucleic Acids Res 2016;44(1):175-86Sci Rep. 2016;6:33924).
  2. Elucidating the genetic and immunological bases of primary antibody deficiencies (N Engl J Med 2006;354:1901-1912J Clin Invest 2010;120:1265-1274Front Immunol. 2019;10:768Front Immunol. 2019;10:2593J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2023)
  3. Unraveling the origin of diverse human memory B cell subsets from T-cell independent, T-cell dependent, and recurrent immune responses (J Exp Med 2007; 204:645-655Blood 2011;118:2150-8J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014; 34(3):688-697.e6J Immunol 2015;195(4):1417-26Immunol Cell Biol. 2017;95(9):744-752J Immunol. 2018;201(7):1928-1935).
  4. Showing dysregulation of B-cell memory in allergy, and how this is affected by treatment (J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014;134(6):1346-1353.e9Allergy. 2018;73(6):1331-1336Allergy. 2020;75(5):1121-1132Allergy. 2021 76(10):3028-3040Allergy. 2023 78(3):822-835)
  5. Shaping of adaptive immunity in young children by non-genetic factors (J Infect Dis. 2016;213(2):233-42J Pediatr. 2016;170:126-134J Leukoc Biol. 2017;101(4):949-956J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017;139(6):1923-1934)
  6. Detailed examination of immune memory and its durability following natural infection and vaccination (Clin Transl Immunology. 2020;9(10):e1199Sci Immunol. 2020;5(54):eabf8891Allergy. 2023 78(3):855-858; J Clin Immunol. 2023 Jun 16)

(See all publications for Menno van Zelm in Pubmed)

HUM Group members

  • Menno C. van Zelm, Principal Investigator
  • Magdalena A. Berkowska, Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Sara Kassem, Research Assistant

ACI team at Monash University

Research Fellows

Project Officer

Research Assistants

PhD students


Hons and MSc students

  • Holly Fryer, 2022
  • Liam Ta, 2022
  • Ebony Blight 2021
  • Sabina Masinovic 2020
  • Charlotte Leijten 2019-2020
  • Gemma Hartley 2019
  • Rosalyn Cao 2018
  • Adam Nelson 2018
  • Tarnia Fischer 2018
  • Janice Klingenberg 2018
  • Floor Vissers 2018
  • Samuel de Jong 2016
  • Eliza Watson 2016
  • Fatemeh Ahmadi 2015
  • Liza Rijvers 2013-2014
  • Kyra Smit 2013-2014
  • Hessel van der Weide 2013
  • Sanne van de Bovenkamp 2012-2013
  • Ingrid Snijdewind 2011-2012

BSc students

  • Nicole Borggreven 2015
  • Lemelinda Marques 2014-2015
  • Jasper Rip 2014
  • Roel Kroek 2013-2014
  • Rachid Bouzid 2013-2014
  • Marleen Hoozemans 2012-2013
  • Dan Zhao 2012-2013
  • Michael Vermeulen 2009-2010
  • Abdullah Tarique 2010