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Building a knowledge centre for gene therapy

Welcome to the Trellis Research Group, headed by Els Henckaerts. Our research focuses on the non-pathogenic adeno-associated virus (AAV) and its application as a gene delivery vector. Through studying the virus’s biology, we aim to improve its capability as a vector for gene therapy, as well as develop and test AAV-based gene therapies of our own.

Our goal

Successfully developing any gene therapy is incredibly challenging. There are countless pitfalls and technical bridges to cross throughout the development cycle and many gene therapy products fall along the wayside as a result.

What’s really needed is a concerted effort from both the academic and industrial sectors to come together and create an ecosystem that catalyses the gene therapy development process and increases the chance of successfully bringing them to the clinic.

Our goal is to aid the development of such an ecosystem within Flanders and the wider EU region. By collaborating with academic and industrial partners on a variety of projects, we are looking to focus on the key areas required to streamline the gene therapy development cycle, as well as developing our own enabling technologies and training courses to help newcomers to the field.

Be it novel vector or capsid designs, production plasmid designs, up- or downstream bioprocessing practices or analytical methods, our team is dedicated to collaboratively studying the fundamental aspects of AAV-based gene therapies. We also support promising new development programmes on their way from fundamental research to authorised medicines.



We are part of the KU Leuven Departments of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and  Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation. Our research laboratories are located in ON1 bis on the Gasthuisberg Campus and at the Leuven Bio-Incubator.

Meet the Team

Therapeutics Team

Els Henckaerts

Principal Investigator

Veronick Benoy

Research Manager

Tine Brouns

Process Development Engineer USP

Sofie Molenberghs

Lab Technician in vivo

Kirsten Welkenhuyzen

Lab Technician DSP

Sofie De Munter

Gene Therapy Engineer

Jolien Van Dijck

Lab Technician USP

Ingrid Pintens

Account Manager and PA to Els Henckaerts

Elien Costermans

Lab Technician USP

Thomas Matheussen

Lab Technician

Benjamien Moeyaert

Research Manager

Irina Thiry

Lab Manager and Vector Production Technologist

Teresa Torre Muruzabal

Gene Therapy Engineer

Inge Van Hove

Program Manager

Kristel Vuerinckx

Lab Technician Assay Development

Nathalie Van Den Berghe

Analytics Lead

Filip de Vin

Gene Therapy Engineer

Icham Lahbib

Lab Technician

Thayara Morais Portal

Molecular Virologist

Vandana Singh Kushwaha

Process Development Engineer DSP

Samir Nuseibeh

Education Co-ordinator

Marwan Benaissa-Touil Zariouh

Lab Technician

Viral Cell Biology Team

Bram Vandewinkel

PhD student

Marlies Leysen

PhD student

Sophie Torrekens

Lab Manager

News & Events

Our partners

Logo Vlaamse veerkracht + EU + Vlaamse overh samen
VIB v2
BiCycle T

Associated Publications

Intraparenchymal convection enhanced delivery of AAV in sheep to treat Mucopolysaccharidosis IIIC

O’Leary, C., Forte, G., Mitchell, N.L. et al. | J Transl Med, 2023 Jul 5;21(1):437.



Changing trends in the development of AAV-based gene therapies: a meta-analysis of past and present therapies

Burdett, T., Nuseibeh, S. | Gene Ther, 2023 Apr;30(3-4):323-335


Comparative structural, biophysical, and receptor binding study of true type and wild type AAV2

Bennett, A., Hull, J. et al. | J Struct Biol, 2021 Dec;213(4):107795.


Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Coinfection Modifies Adeno-associated Virus Genome End Recombination

Meier, A.F., Tobler, K. et al. | J Virol, 2021 Jun 10;95(13):e0048621.


The Cryo-EM structure of AAV2 Rep68 in complex with ssDNA reveals a malleable AAA+ machine that can switch between oligomeric states

Santosh, V., Musayev, F.N. et al. | Nucleic Acids Res, 2020 Dec 16;48(22):12983-12999.



Trellis Research Group

Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation

Bio-Incubator 3

Arenberg Wetenschapspark

Gaston Geenslaan 2

3001 Leuven

+32 (0)16 88 28 70

Arenberg Accelerator

Arenberg Wetenschapspark

Gaston Geenslaan 3
3001 Leuven

O&N 1 bis

Herestraat 49