Vaccines: from smallpox to technologies of the future

6 weeks total 3 - 5 hours each week

Please select the start dates for your courses below.

Scheduled Start:

Course Overview

Do you want to broaden your knowledge on vaccinology or get a first well-balanced introduction to different aspects of the vaccine field? Then tune in for this MOOC!

Do you know vaccines have proven to be one of the most powerful and effective ways of reducing morbidity and mortality and even eradicating diseases? Within this MOOC, we will elaborate on the burden of some infectious diseases. Besides the history of vaccines and the impact on mankind, a module will be dedicated to vaccine immunology.

You will learn more about the different stages in vaccine development and the (sometimes) troublesome path to reach those most in need. Big steps forward have been made, but there are still challenges to tackle, including the recent vaccine hesitancy leading to a worrisome reduction in vaccination rates.

A novel vaccine platform technology, named PLLAV (i.e. plasmid-launched live-attenuated viral vaccine) will be highlighted as well.

This MOOC is aimed at all stakeholders in the vaccine field like students, parents, scientists, NGOs, politicians and many more.


What You’ll Learn

  • Understand the burden of some infectious diseases
  • Learn about the history of vaccines
  • Distinguish the different types of immunity
  • Understand how vaccines trigger our immunity
  • Identify the different types of vaccines
  • Distinguish the phases in vaccine development
  • Identify the problems we are facing today and the possible solutions



  • Basic knowledge of biochemistry (DNA, RNA,…)
  • Basic knowledge of cell biology
  • Basic knowledge of virology (f.e. structure of virus particle)
  • Advanced knowledge of immunology for module 3

Meet Your Instructors

Johan Neyts

Professor at KU Leuven University Johan Neyts is full professor of Virology at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He teaches virology at the medical school and at the school of dentistry. The lab has a long-standing expertise in the development of antivirals strategies and drugs against emerging and neglected viral infections (such as dengue and other flaviviruses, Chikungunya and other alphaviruses, enteroviruses, noroviruses, HEV and rabies). A second focus of the lab is the development of a novel vaccine technology platform technology, the PLLAV (Plasmid Launched Live Attenuated Virus) vaccine approach. This technology allows to rapidly engineer highly thermostable vaccines against multiple viral pathogens. Johan Neyts is president of the International Society for Antiviral Research ( Four classes of antivirals discovered in his laboratory have been licensed to major pharmaceutical companies (two on HCV, one on dengue and one on rhino/enteroviruses). He published >470 papers in peer reviewed journals and has given ~210 invited lectures.

Corinne Vandermeulen

Professor at KU Leuven University Professor Corinne Vandermeulen obtained her medical degree in Leuven, Belgium where she also obtained her PhD studying the epidemiological and immunological issues regarding long-term protection following MMR immunization. She worked at the Center for Youth Health Care (KU Leuven) for sixteen years after which she moved to the Center for Clinical Pharmacology to combine the work of early phase drug clinical trials (phase I) with vaccine research. Since 2013 she is the head of the Leuven University Vaccinology Center (KU Leuven - LUVAC). As of October 2018 she returned to the Youth Health Care (Environment and health, KU Leuven) where she will continue her vaccine work. Corinne Vandermeulen research interests’ lie predominantly in the epidemiological and immunological evaluation of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases and development and evaluation of vaccines in general. She has led over 50 vaccine clinical trials as principal and sub-investigator involving different age groups (from the very young to the more silver population), different types of vaccines and different pathogens. Since 2013, Corinne Vandermeulen is a member of the Belgian National Immunization Technical Advisory Group which is responsible for the Belgian vaccine recommendations.

Steven Van Gucht

Professor at Sciensano Steven Van Gucht is head of the Division of Viral Diseases at Sciensano, the Belgian national institute for public and animal health. He has 18 years of experience in the field of virology, viral disease, public health, emerging viruses and zoonosis and 12 years of experience in the field of rabies. His division groups 5 national reference centres for viral pathogens, including rabies. As such, his unit is solely responsible for diagnosis, serology and surveillance of rabies in man and animal in Belgium. He is nominated as the Belgian National Microbiology Focal Point (NMFP) for the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Since 2014, he is also visiting professor at the Laboratory of Virology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University. Areas of expertise
  • Viral diseases
  • Zoonosis
  • Rabies
  • Public health
  • Surveillance
  • One health
  • Animal infection models

Marta Romano

PhD at Sciensano Heads the research unit In vivo models within the Service Immune Response of Sciensano. Contributes to studies about innate and adaptive immune responses induced by infection with M. tuberculosis and development of vaccines for tuberculosis in animal models (mice and rats). Experienced Senior Researcher, with a MSc in Chemistry (1998) and a PhD in Applied Biological Sciences (2005). Areas of Expertise
  • innate immunity
  • Th1 and Th17 responses
  • preclinical vaccine development
  • subunit vaccines (DNA and protein based)

Isabelle Desombere

PhD at Sciensano Heads the research unit Immunosurveillance and –diagnostics within the Service Immune Response of Sciensano. In a consortium with the University Hospital of Brussels, the unit hosts the National Reference Centers for Bordetella pertussis and Diphtheria (toxigenic corynebacteria). Experienced Senior Researcher (MSc in Biology; PhD in Medical Sciences) who graduated from Ghent University (UGent, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences), and worked for 26 years at the Center for Vaccinology (CEVAC, UGent). Experienced Tutor in Infection & Immunity. Areas of Expertise
  • Viral and clinical Immunology, Vaccinology
  • Serodiagnosis of whooping cough
  • Monitoring human immune responses after infection or vaccination
  • Epidemiological serosurveillance of vaccine preventable diseases
  • Neutralizing antibodies
  • Assay development, serological multiplex assays
  • Hepatitis B en C viruses; viral transmission pathways

Nico Vandaele

Professor at KU Leuven University Nico Vandaele holds a degree in Business Engineering (1990) and obtained a PhD in Applied Economics, Operations Research and Operations Management from KU Leuven in 1996. He is currently Full Professor Operations Management at the KU Leuven, Faculty of Business and Economics. He is holder of the GSK Research Chair on Access-to-Medicines and a research member of the Research Center of Operations Management. Nico Vandaele teaches courses in operations research, operations management and supply chain management. His research interests are situated in supply chain design, immunization systems, modeling of manufacturing and service systems, performance measurement, the design of planning systems, sales and operations management, factory physics, health care management and traffic modeling. The emphasis on developing countries and challenging humanitarian contexts is not only a part of the research but is embedded in a personal motivation. Another research area deals with decision support systems for product design, product development and portfolio management.

Catherine Decouttere

PhD at KU Leuven University Catherine Decouttere is a senior researcher in the Access-to-Medicines Center of the KU Leuven. She is currently conducting PhD research on Immunization System Design for the Developing World. Central to her work is the development of a holistic systems approach for public health, highly relevant to policy makers as well as practitioners in low-resource settings. After obtaining a master’s in civil engineering at the KU Leuven, Catherine practiced engineering in public water works, R&D and innovation management in the food industry and design thinking implementation in a diversity of industries and service organizations. Her main fields of expertise are R&D portfolio management, design thinking, sustainability strategies and group decision making. Catherine is passionate about sustainable development, systems thinking and biomimicry, global public health and nutrition. She enjoys co-creating valuable insights with colleagues and stakeholders in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Marc Van Ranst

Professor at KU Leuven University Marc Van Ranst is full professor at the Faculty of Medicine; department chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation; head of the Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology; member of ‘Divisie Leuven Universitair Vaccinologie Centrum’.

Anthony R. Fooks

Professor at Animal and Plant Health Agency Since 2017, Dr Fooks has been the scientific lead for International Development in The Animal and Plant Health Agency. From 2000, Dr Fooks led a research team working on a range of viral zoonotic pathogens. In 2002, he was appointed Director of a World Health Organisation Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response Collaborating Centre and in 2006 was appointed a Designated OIE Reference Expert. He holds Honorary Visiting Professorial positions in the Department of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Liverpool, UK and in the Institute for Infection and Immunity at St George’s Medical School, University of London, UK and holds other honorary positions as a Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London, part of the University of London in the UK and a Research Associate in the Division of International Epidemiology and Population Studies for Fogarty International in the USA. In 2015, Dr Fooks was elected to the OIE Biological Standards Commission and is part of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs roster as an OIE nominated expert for the investigation into the alleged use of biological weapons. Dr Fooks is a Member of the International Committee for the Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) Rhabdovirus Study Group. Dr Fooks has published more than 350 scientific reports in international journals on a variety of viral pathogens principally on rabies. Dr Fooks focused his scientific research on ‘One Health’ with an emphasis on emerging and zoonotic RNA viruses.

Ashley C. Banyard

PhD at Animal and Plant Health Agency Dr Ashley C. Banyard has over 10 years experience in the lyssavirus field having initiated his career working with morbilliviruses. During his time working with rabies and the lyssaviruses he has led teams that have identified and characterized novel lyssaviruses from both bats and terrestrial carnivores. Studies have centered around defining correlates of protection for the lyssaviruses with a strong interest in generating novel vaccines against the most divergent lyssaviruses and pan-lyssavirus vaccine design. He has published extensively in the lyssavirus field, often being invited to contribute as an expert in bat lyssavirology, as well as contributing to manuscripts across the broader rabies community. He currently leads the rabies and lyssavirus research team at the Animal and Plant Health agency (United Kingdom) and has a strong interest in viral zoonoses and negative sense RNA viral pathogens in general. Dr Banyard holds the academic positions of Honorary Reader in Viral Zoonoses at the Institute for Infection and Immunity, St George’s, University of London and Honorary Reader in Virology at the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, UK. He is currently the Head of Influenza and Newcastle Disease research at the Animal and Plant Health Agency and is Co-Deputy director of the International Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza, Swine Influenza and Newcastle Disease.


6 Weeks

Experience Level


Learning Partner

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


Biology & Life Sciences Health & Safety Medicine