Athanasios Koulis is a postdoctoral fellow at the Amsterdam UMC (location AMC) in the Autophagy-directed Immunity group (ADI), headed by Dr. Carla Ribeiro. He is originally from Athens, Greece and grew up in Amsterdam. He obtained his BSc Biotechnology at University College London (UCL). Afterwards he worked as a research assistant at the UCL Medical School on tumour infiltrating T cells in B cell lymphomas. Moving from London to Athens to experience life in his own home country, Athanasios worked several years at the family business, a complementary medicine centre, which helped him develop a more holistic understanding of medicine and health. He then returned to London and completed his MSc in Cellular Pathology at Imperial College London, studying the immune microenvironment in HIV-associated Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Athanasios then moved to Australia. In 2021, he completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre on characterization of the cellular and molecular changes in intestinal metaplasia associated with progression to gastric cancer. Athanasios has developed a tissue culture organoid system to model gastric carcinogenesis and has employed multiplex imaging and advanced gene expression network profiling to unravel biomarkers associated with progression of intestinal metaplasia.
As a postdoctoral researcher, Athanasios will be guided by Dr. Carla Ribeiro.
Athanasios will be embedded in the Autophagy-directed Immunity (ADI) group at the Department of Experimental Immunology. At ADI group we investigate how viruses (HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2) infect human intestine. To this end, we have developed advanced intestine tissue infection models and organoid co-culture systems to unravel the impact of autophagy mechanisms on virus susceptibility and mucosal immune responses. Under the supervision of Dr. Carla Ribeiro, Athanasios will spearhead Work Package 3 (DEFEND) to establish a gut epithelial-immune cell co-culture organoid model by providing a intestinal epithelial monolayer supported by a Biosilk nanomembrane (basement membrane) in STACKS plates, and inclusion of immune cells witin the Biosilk network (lamina propria). The incorporation of gut-specific immune cells (T cells, dendritic cells and macrophages) will allow us to elucidate the critical interactions between the intestinal epithelial barrier and mucosal immune compartment upon HIV-1 infection. In collaboration with Carlemi Calitz from Work Package 2 (SHAPE), Athanasios will combine the gut epithelial-immune cell co-culture model with the mesenchyme model to ultimately create a gut mucosa model that recapitulates the in vivo intestinal physiology.
He will then define the phenotypic and molecular immune response parameters per gut co-culture model. Athanasios will study HIV-1 infection and antiviral treatments across the different gut organoid co-culture models in the context of Work Package 5 (INFECT) and Work Package 6 (TREAT), respectively. The gut mucosal model developed in Work Package 3 will lay the foundation to create a user-friendly and fit-for-purpose complex gut-brain axis organ-on-chip system as per Work Package 7 (STACK) for modelling human viral diseases.
Amsterdam University Medical Centers (Amsterdam UMC) is one of the foremost research institutions in the Netherlands and one of its largest hospitals, with 1500 staff members employed in medical research. The Amsterdam UMC research is organized in 7 themes within the AMC Research Institute, where AMC Principal Investigators (PIs) are appointed to develop their own research lines. The AMC Graduate School organizes doctorate level academic training of AMC PhD students (209 PhD rewarded in 2016). This concentration of expertise makes the center a breeding ground for fruitful scientific collaborations.