Zoek medewerkers/organisaties dr.ir. GP Pijlman
Naamdr.ir. GP Pijlman

OrganisatieDepartement Plantenwetenschappen
OrganisatieeenheidLaboratorium voor Virologie
Telefoon+31 317 484 498
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PostadresPostbus 16
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Universitair Hoofddocent Arbovirussen

Gorben Pijlman obtained his MSc in Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering at Wageningen University, the Netherlands in 1999. Next, he carried out PhD research in the baculovirus research group of prof. Dr. Just M. Vlak, where he worked on the molecular mechanisms underlying the ‘baculovirus defective interference’ phenomenon. This research resulted in further improvements of the powerful baculovirus expression system. In 2003, he joined the Flavivirus research group of prof. Alex Khromykh at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, for postdoctoral research on West Nile virus replication and the role of the enigmatic subgenomic flavivirus RNA (sfRNA) in viral pathogenesis and antiviral RNAi. Later on, he became involved in the Australian biotech start-up RepliKUN to develop and improve flavivirus replicon vectors for vaccines and cancer gene therapy applications. In 2007, he returned to Wageningen to take up a permanent position as Assistant Professor Arboviruses.

The current research programme is an interesting mix of fundamental virology focused at arbovirus-host interactions and applied studies on arbovirus vaccine development. In the period 2009-2013, the group developed a successful virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine that protects against chikungunya virus infection. Since early 2013 the arbovirus group conducts arbovirus transmission studies using live mosquitoes (Culex and Aedes spp.) and class pathogenic arboviruses (Chikungunya, West Nile, Usutu and, since 2016, Zika virus), in a purposely-built biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory at Wageningen campus. At present, the group works on a COVID-19 vaccine by expressing SARS-CoV-2 spikes in insect cells (H2020 Prevent-nCoV consortium).

Onderzoek 2021. Ons prototype covid-19 vaccin S1-VLP is klaar en werkt. Lees de publicatie in mBio via onderstaande link.



Arbovirus group 2022

Top: Monique van Oers - Thijmen Zegers - Luzhao Li - Corinne Geertsema - Christiaan Helmes - Sara Ripamonti - Wessel Willemsen - Abbas Freydoonian - Carmen van de Waterbeemd - Taja Zotler - Jelke Fros - Joyce van Bree - Gwen Nowee - Jerome Comes

Bottom: Linda van Oosten - Qiuhong Miao - Tessy Hick - Marleen Henkens - Gorben Pijlman - Sandra Abbo

2020 Onderzoek: Aziatische bosmug kan Zika en Usutu virussen overdragen

The Asian bush mosquito Aedes japonicus is invading Europe and was first discovered in Lelystad, the Netherlands in 2013, where it has established a permanent population. Here, we investigate the risk of transmission of ZIKV and USUV by the Asian bush mosquito Aedes japonicus. We found that field-collected Ae. japonicus mosquitoes can experimentally transmit ZIKV and USUV. Of the orally infected mosquitoes, 3% (ZIKV) and 13% (USUV) showed virus-positive saliva after 14 days at 28°C. We also found that ZIKV and USUV activated the antiviral RNA interference immune response of Ae. japonicus. Moreover, a strong barrier in the mosquito midgut restricted virus dissemination, since 96% (ZIKV) and 88% (USUV) of the mosquitoes injected with ZIKV or USUV showed virus-positive saliva. Additionally, we discovered a narnavirus in Ae. japonicus. Given that Ae. japonicus can transmit ZIKV and USUV, we should consider this mosquito as a potential vector for arboviral diseases in Europe.


Arbovirus group XL November 2019

Top: Monique van Oers - Marieke Pleiter - Lotte Azink - Sandra Abbo - Marleen Henkens - Jelke Fros - Marie Thölke - Just Vlak - Gorben Pijlman - Hera Saouadogo - Linda Van Oosten - Kirsten Bronsvoort - Gwen Nowee - Bright Amoah - Jeroen Kortekaas

Bottom: Erick Bermundez - Ties Baljet - Tessy Hick - Chikungunya - Haidong Wang - Jerome Comes

Sabbatical Dr. Jody Hobson-Peters (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia), herfst 2019

Sandra Abbo - Jody Hobson-Peters - Gorben Pijlman - Jerome Comes - Tessy Hick

2019 Onderzoek: Junk RNA verklaart de verspreiding van Zika virus door steekmuggen

Mosquito-transmitted flaviviruses such as Zika virus (ZIKV) are responsible for over 400 million human infections each year. Unfortunately, the molecular mechanisms that facilitate flavivirus transmission by mosquitoes remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that noncoding subgenomic flavivirus RNA (sfRNA), that is produced by all flaviviruses, plays a critical role in ZIKV transmission by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. ZIKV requires sfRNA to overcome the mosquito midgut barrier and efficiently accumulate in the mosquito saliva. We reveal that the mosquito protein ME31B has antiviral activity and specifically binds to sfRNA. These results establish sfRNA as a determinant of ZIKV transmission by mosquitoes and provide mechanistic insights into the functions of this noncoding RNA.


Arbo's at IMAV 2019 Glasgow

Julian Bakker - Haidong Wang - Tessy Hick - Jody Hobson-Peters - Gorben Pijlman - Jelke Fros - Sandra Abbo

Arbovirusgroep November 2018

Top: Corinne Geertsema – Tessy Hick – Nika Zibrat – Giel Göertz – Iris Swart – Chris van Toor – Just Vlak – Ahmad Ibrahim – Gorben Pijlman – Jelke Fros

Bottom: Marleen Henkens – Sandra Abbo – Haidong Wang – Imke Visser – Christina Emmanouilidou – Joyce van Bree

2018 Onderzoek: Chikungunya virus speelt vals met de aangeboren afweer

Chikungunya virus is an emerging pathogen associated with large outbreaks on the African, Asian, European, and both American continents. In most patients, infection results in high fever, rash, and incapacitating (chronic) arthralgia. CHIKV effectively inhibits the first line of defense, the innate immune response. As a result, stimulation of the innate immune response with interferons (IFNs) is ineffective as a treatment for CHIKV disease. The IFN response requires an intact downstream signaling cascade called the JAK/STAT signaling pathway, which is effectively inhibited by CHIKV nonstructural protein 2 (nsP2) via an unknown mechanism. The research described here specifies where in the JAK/STAT signaling cascade the IFN response is inhibited and which protein domain of nsP2 is responsible for IFN inhibition. The results illuminate new aspects of antiviral defense and CHIKV counterdefense strategies and will direct the search for novel antiviral compounds.



Sabbatical Prof. Roy Hall and Dr. Sonja Hall-Mendelin, summer 2018

2017 Onderzoek: Zika- en chikungunyavirus in één muggenbeet

Gelekoortsmuggen kunnen in hun speeksel tegelijkertijd zikavirus én chikungunyavirus hebben. Dat duidt er op dat mensen in één enkele muggenbeet besmet kunnen worden met beide virussen.


BSL3 team 2018

Jelke Fros - Gorben Pijlman - Julian Bakker - Giel Goertz

Corinne Geertsema - Sandra Abbo - Marleen Henkens - Haidong Wang

Chantal Vogels - Tessa Visser - Tim Mohlmann - Sander Koenraadt

2016 Research: Viral Non-Coding RNA Determines Flavivirus Transmission by Mosquitoes

Understanding the flavivirus transmission cycle is important to identify novel targets to interfere with disease and to aid development of virus control strategies. Flaviviruses produce an abundant, non-coding viral RNA called sfRNA in both arthropod and mammalian cells. To evaluate the role of sfRNA in flavivirus transmission, we infected mosquitoes with the flavivirus West Nile and an sfRNA-deficient mutant West Nile virus. We demonstrate that sfRNA determines the infection and transmission rates of West Nile virus in Culex pipiens mosquitoes. Comparison of infection via the blood meal versus intrathoracic injection, which bypasses the midgut, revealed that sfRNA is important to overcome the mosquito midgut barrier. We also show that sfRNA is processed by the antiviral RNA interference machinery in mosquitoes. This is the first report to describe a pivotal biological function of sfRNA in arthropods. The results explain why sfRNA production is evolutionary conserved.


2015 Onderzoek: Steekmug kan Usutu virus overdragen in Nederland

"Usutu virus verspreiding in Nederland heeft voorspellende waarde  voor een eventuele West Nijl virus uitbraak in Noord-West Europa"

Originating from Africa, Usutu virus (USUV) first emerged in Europe in 2001. This mosquito-borne flavivirus caused high mortality rates in its bird reservoirs, which strongly resembled the introduction of West Nile virus (WNV) in 1999 in the United States. Mosquitoes infected with USUV incidentally transmit the virus to other vertebrates, including humans, which can result in neuroinvasive disease. USUV and WNV co-circulate in parts of southern Europe, but the distribution of USUV extends into central and northwestern Europe. In the field, both viruses have been detected in the northern house mosquito Culex pipiens, of which the potential for USUV transmission is unknown. To understand the transmission dynamics and assess the potential spread of USUV, we determined the vector competence of C. pipiens for USUV and compared it with the well characterized WNV. We show for the first time that northwestern European mosquitoes are highly effective vectors for USUV, with infection rates of 11% at 18 °C and 53% at 23 °C, which are comparable with values obtained for WNV. Interestingly, at a high temperature of 28 °C, mosquitoes became more effectively infected with USUV (90%) than with WNV (58%), which could be attributed to barriers in the mosquito midgut. Small RNA deep sequencing of infected mosquitoes showed for both viruses a strong bias for 21-nucleotide small interfering (si)RNAs, which map across the entire viral genome both on the sense and antisense strand. No evidence for viral PIWI-associated RNA (piRNA) was found, suggesting that the siRNA pathway is the major small RNA pathway that targets USUV and WNV infection in C. pipiens mosquitoes.



Arbovirus group October 2017

Meliawati Poniman - Gwen Nowee - Giel Göertz - Gorben Pijlman - Corinne Geertsema - Sandra Abbo - Jelke Fros

Rik Stuart - Anwar Hiralal - Marleen Henkens - Erich Breukink - Mitchell Neijenhuizen

Arbovirusgroep Juni 2016

Arbovirusgroep Juli 2015

Pamplona road trip 2015 - thesis defense Amaya Serrano

Amaya Serrano - Giel Göertz - Jelke Fros - Mia Hikke - Gorben Pijlman

proefschriften arbovirusgroep

Arbovirusgroep 2013

Arbovirus battle front

Corinne Geertsema - Just Vlak - Gorben Pijlman - Mia Hikke - Jelke Fros - Stefan Metz

Arbovirusgroep Mei 2012




Mosquito RNA vaccine (MORV) 2022

Vaccinatie van mensen is niet altijd mogelijk tegen virussen die door muggen worden overgedragen. Dit voorstel is een proof of-concept om muggen te ‘vaccineren’ met een zelfreplicerend RNA vaccin genaamd MORV. De MORV bestaat uit een synthetisch RNA dat gemakkelijk kan worden aangepast aan elke virusziekte. In dit korte project wordt de MORV ontworpen, de immuunrespons in muggen onderzocht, en getest of muggen resistent worden tegen het Zika en Westnijl virus. Uiteindelijk kunnen MORV-gevaccineerde muggen worden losgelaten in de natuur om virusverspreiding te verminderen. Dit project is tevens belangrijk voor revisie van huidige Europese wetgeving met betrekking tot nieuwe genetische technieken.


Horizon 2020 Prevent-nCoV. Prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection through development and clinical testing of a novel Virus Like Particle (VLP) vaccine. 2020-2022


Our aim is to perform pre-clinical and clinical evaluation of a Coronavirus vaccine candidate. The vaccine will be based on Virus-Like Particle (VLP) display of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein antigen. VLP display technology has been shown to significantly improve vaccine immunogenicity, longevity and efficacy, for a wide range of viral and parasite diseases in pre-clinical studies (including flu and malaria). The Spike antigen will be produced in Drosophila S2 insect cells, in E.coli or using baculovirus expression in Sf9 insect cells. The vaccine candidates will be tested pre-clinically using in vitro viral neutralisation assays and animal challenge models. Finally, a phase I/IIa study will be performed. This project is focused on delivering a scalable vaccine, ready for testing in the field, which has been shown to be safe in humans and effective in in vitro or animal models.

RepliSAFE: Environmental safety of synthetic replicon particle vaccines – risk for RNA recombination with wildtype viruses. 2018 - 2022

TTW Biotechnology and Safety Programme - New and future Modern Biotechnology Techniques and Applications in relation to Environmental Safety

Vaccines are essential tools to control infectious disease outbreaks in humans, companion animals and livestock farming animals. Next generation vaccines based on self-replicating, so-called ‘replicon particles’ (RPs) are ‘safe by design’. RP vaccines are highly innovative and combine the advantages of a ‘replicating’ vaccine without the ability to spread and cause disease. Synthetic gene technology has dramatically accelerated the development of new RP vaccines (‘plug-and-play’ technology) and provides emergency preparedness for epidemics of novel and emerging pathogens such as Ebola and avian flu. The environmental safety profile of RP vaccines is a crucial aspect of the registration process by regulatory authorities, but the potential for recombination of the RP vaccine with naturally occurring wildtype viruses remains poorly studied. The RepliSAFE project will provide essential data on persistence and cell/tissue tropism of RP vaccines in laboratory animals, will study the potential for recombination with wildtype viruses in cell culture and animals, and lay out a risk assessment framework applicable to RP vaccines of the future.



Uzootu (PE&RC One Health): Usutu virus in the Netherlands - Zoonotic potential and fitness trade-offs in birds and mosquitoes. 2018 - 2020

Usutu virus (USUV) is a highly pathogenic mosquito-borne virus of birds that was recently associated with neurological disease in humans. USUV is maintained in an enzootic mosquito–bird transmission cycle, with birds of 14 orders able to become infected. USUV has been circulating in Europe for over twenty years, but the first outbreak of USUV in the Netherlands was reported in September 2016. The true zoonotic potential of USUV, which is the ability to infect and cause disease in humans, is currently still unknown and needs to be investigated. The overall aim of this project is to gain insight into the zoonotic potential of contemporary USUV strains and to study the fitness trade-offs caused by pathogenicity mutations in the viral genome in mosquitoes and birds.

ZikaRisk (ZonMw) 2017 - 2021

Het Zika virus (ZIKV) wordt door steekmuggen overgedragen op mensen. Sinds eind 2015 is er een grootschalige uitbraak van ZIKV in Zuid- en Midden-Amerika en in het Caribisch gebied. ZIKV infectie gaat gewoonlijk gepaard met milde symptomen, maar de infectie kan ook leiden tot een ernstiger ziektebeeld. Zo kunnen volwassenen het zeldzame Guillain-Barré syndroom ontwikkelen en kan er hersenschade in het ongeboren kind optreden wanneer de moeder tijdens de zwangerschap met ZIKV geïnfecteerd is geraakt.

In het ZikaRisk project werken het Erasmus Medisch Centrum en Wageningen Universiteit samen om het ziekterisico voor patiënten en de kans op ZIKV verspreiding in Nederland in the schatten. Dit wordt gedaan middels reizigerstudies, proefdiervrije modellen en virusoverdrachtsexperimenten met Nederlandse muggen. De resultaten zijn van belang om het risico van ZIKV in Nederland te bepalen.


EMC en WU zijn partners binnen het Netherlands Centre for One Health – Emerging Infectious Diseases.


ZIKAlliance (H2020 2017 - 2021) is a multinational and multi-disciplinary research consortium comprised of 52 partners worldwide and coordinated by Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. ZIKAlliance is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. The project will investigate clinical, fundamental, environmental and social aspects of ZIKV infection. In particular, ZIKAlliance will focus on the impact of ZIKV infection during pregnancy and the natural history of ZIKV in humans and their environment. In collaboration with two other EC funded consortia (ZikaPLAN and ZIKAction), ZIKAlliance will also work on the development of a preparedness platform in Latin America and the Caribbean. https://zikalliance.tghn.org/

VECTORIE (FP7 2009-2013) is an acronym for Vector-borne Risks for Europe: Risk assessment and control of West Nile and Chikungunya virus, and is a focused research project funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Both West Nile virus (WNV) and Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) are emerging vector-borne viruses that are transmitted??by mosquitoes (the vector) from one infected host to another.??They are known to cause West Nile disease and Chikungunya disease respectively in humans. In light of the increased risk of WNV and CHIKV outbreaks in Europe and the increasing notifications of the West Nile disease and Chikungunya fever cases in Europe, it has become imperative to assume a proactive approach to anticipate and deal with threats of mosquito-borne infections, such as WNV and CHIKV at the EU level.

Current WNV and CHIKV control strategies are based largely on vector control. The risk of WNV and CHIKV outbreaks in humans is not only determined by vector competence but also by their feeding behaviour. These factors have so far not been investigated for European vectors. It is not known whether European Culex pipiens mosquitoes transmit WNV to animals or humans. Therefore, defining vector competence and feeding behavior is essential in formulating and focusing a prevention plan. Culex pipiens mosquitoes will be used for studies on vector competence and compared to WNV-competent Culex pipiens from the US. These studies will be conducted by Wageningen University in their BSL3 facility.


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