The de Duve Institute (DDI) was founded in 1974 by Christian de DUVE when he received his Nobel Prize. It is a multidisciplinary biomedical research institute, hosting 30 laboratories of the Faculty of Medicine of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain),  as well as the Brussels branch of the Ludwig Institute. The 270 researchers and technicians study basic biochemistry, genetics, development, cancer immunology, virology, cytokines and their intracellular signalling pathways.

People – staff at DDI involved within INCITE


Pierre van der Bruggen is professor at the Faculty of Medicine of UCLouvain, and leads a research group at the de Duve Institute dedicated to studying the T-cell responses to cancer. In 1991, Prof van der Bruggen identified the first human gene, MAGE-1, that codes for a tumor antigen recognized by cytolytic T lymphocytes. Over the years, he and his group identified several other tumor antigen-coding genes and defined a large number of antigenic peptides, which have been used in clinical trials. Since, efforts have been developed to accurately monitor T-cell responses to cancer vaccines – including MAGE-3-specific regulatory T-cell responses. Since 2015, Prof van der Bruggen’s group studies the immunosuppressive effects of human MDSC from blood and tumors on the functions of T-cells. More recently, researchers of his group decided to systematically analyze the transcription factors implicated in CD8 T-cell dysfunction in human cancers.
Within INCITE, Prof van der Bruggen is responsible for extending the artificial immune niche to human cells, and evaluate the anti-tumoral functions of human T-cells that were expanded within the artificial immune niche.

ANNIKA M. BRUGER completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford in 2013. She studied how the strength of T-cell receptor (TCR) engagement affects downstream early signalling. She showed that the adaptor protein Themis delays early phosphorylation evens in the TCR signaling cascade, and thus is part of a negative feedback control system. Since 2015, Dr Bruger studies human myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) in cancer patients. She developed protocols to isolate and functionally test MDSC from both blood and tumors. She discovered distinct MDSC subgroups and is characterising these cells and their immunosuppressive effects on T-cell functions. From 2015-2019, she was an active member of the EU COST Action Mye-EUNITER and in 2021 she joined the EU COST Action Mye-InfoBank.
Within INCITE, Dr Bruger is responsible for expanding human T-cells within the artificial immune niche and test their anti-tumoral functions in vitro.