Cécile van Els (1961) is an expert in the field of immunology of infectious diseases and vaccines at the RIVM Centre for Immunology of Infectious Diseases and Vaccines. She wants to gain more insight into the dynamics and quality of protective immune mechanisms against human pathogens and combines research on immune mechanisms and clinical research in patient populations.

Immune mechanisms against various pathogens appear to have similar but also unique properties. Better understanding of why an immune response to one pathogen is more effective than to another is essential for improving healthcare now and in the future.

Currently Cécile and her team are working on the following topics and research questions: 

  • Fitness and durability of immune responses
    What are the features of effective and long-lived immune memory cells? How are these cells programmed by pathogens through the innate immune system?
  • Immunodominance in complex cellular immune responses
    What determines immunogenicity of antigens and epitope selection during antigen processing? What  specificities dominate an immune response? What circumstances lead to ‘escape’ of the defense system? Can we use this knowledge in population studies?
  • Biomarker dynamics in immune responses to infectious diseases
    What patterns are followed by humoral and cellular immune responses after a clinical infection? What is their mutual relationship? What factors (host, pathogen) determine ‘waning’ of immunity? 


Cécile van Els is an immunologist. She graduated as a medical biologist at Utrecht University and obtained her PhD on transplantation immunology from Leiden University in 1990. She then joined RIVM to study cellular immunity to HIV. Fascinated by the role of MHC presentation in immune mechanisms she was co-inventor at the Netherlands Vaccine Institute (2003-2010) of a nano-proteomics platform for the discovery of T cell epitopes. Cécile is ADVAC graduate and publishes in peer-reviewed journals. She wrote articles and expert reviews on specific correlates of protection in relation to measles virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, mycobacteria, meningococci and the pertussis bacillus. Since returning to RIVM in 2011, Cécile has been instrumental in shaping the research portfolio on vaccine immunology, as interim manager of the Department for Immune Mechanisms and as coordinator of the institute’s research focuspoint ‘Strategic Vaccine Research’.

Areas of expertise

  • Immunology
  • Vaccinology


E-mail: info@rivm.nl