Niels Hellings (°1973) graduated as master in bioscience-engineering at the Catholic University of Leuven (1996) and consequently obtained a PhD in immunology at Hasselt University (2000). He was visiting postdoctoral scientist at McGill University (Montréal), before returning to Hasselt University to setup his own research group. Now, Niels Hellings is director of the biomedical research institute (BIOMED) and professor in immunology at the faculty of medicine and life sciences, Hasselt University.
His research is focused on immune mechanisms that contribute to autoimmune mediated central nervous system damage and repair in the context of multiple sclerosis (MS). One aspect of his research focuses on different cues responsible for impaired immune regulation and premature aging of the immune system. Another part investigates neuropoietic cytokines as master mediators of reparative autoimmunity. To study this, a wide variety of immunological assays are applied including functional human in vitro assays and high dimensional flow cytometry. BIOMED has easy access to well defined fresh MS patient samples through a strong collaboration with national and international neurologists. Apart from human in vitro studies, experimental animal models of MS are up and running. In addition to basic research, collaborative valorization projects are set up with Flemish and international Biotech and Pharma. Niels Hellings has 4 post docs, 4 pre docs and 2 technicians under his guidance and published over 90 international peer-reviewed papers (H-index: 28 >2600 cites). His work is funded by Methusalem, Hercules, FWO Flanders, The Belgian Charcot Foundation and Hasselt University. He is an expert member of the FWO Med3 commission and board member of the Belgian Immunological Society and Flanders Vaccine vzw.