van Zelm/O'Hehir - Allergy & Clinical Immunology Laboratory

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Key words

  • B cell, memory B cell, T cell, Ig, epigenetics, Jeffrey Modell Foundation, PAD, predominantly antibody deficiency, allergy, COVID-19 immunity

The group

van Zelm group L-R: Dr Simone Reinwald, Dr Emily Edwards, A/Prof Menno van Zelm (head), Professor Robyn O'Hehir AO (co-head), Mr Jack Edwards, Dr Raffi Gugasyan (visiting scientist). Seated: Mr Liam Ta, Ms Gemma Hartley, Ms Ebony Blight, Ms Lin (Kathy) Hsin, Ms Holly Fryer. Absent: Ms Pei Mun Aui

Laboratory Head - A/Prof Menno van Zelm

Menno van ZelmA/Prof Menno van Zelm is an experimental immunologist with a longstanding interest in immune memory. He identified new inherited disorders which impair formation of memory B cells, identified durable B-cell memory after SARS-CoV-2 infection, and characterised plasticity of immune memory following allergen immunotherapy in patients with allergic disease.

Find out more about A/Prof Menno van Zelm

Laboratory Co-Head - Prof Robyn O'Hehir AO

Robyn O'HehirProfessor O’Hehir has a longstanding interest in immunomodulation as a therapeutic treatment for allergic and other immune mediated diseases. Notably she pioneered and established methodology for cloning human allergen-specific T cells to define their biology.

Find out more about Prof Robyn O'Hehir AO

Research overview

B cells are a critical component of the human immune system, producing antibodies to combat infection and long-lived memory cells to protect against disease upon secondary infection, often for life. However, abnormalities in B cell development or function can lead to immunodeficiency, autoimmunity and allergic diseases. The outcomes of immunisation and treatment of immune-mediated diseases are unpredictable, largely inefficient and empirical, posing a large societal burden via life-long therapy and infection susceptibility. Molecular insights into the pathways underlying the formation, durability and plasticity of immune memory are needed to overcome the limitations in current intervention strategies.

Research aims

In the past 10 years, our group has developed, patented and applied new technologies to ex vivo evaluate antigen-specific, human B-cell memory following infection, vaccination and treatment intervention. We will apply these new technologies for quantitative measurements of immune memory and thereby systematise the provision and use of an evidence base for clinical care and assessing vaccination strategies.

Current research

Current research lines include:

  1. Defining the contribution of rare and common genetic variants to the severity and heterogeneity of disease in patients with predominantly antibody deficiency;
  2. The impact of persistent viral infections and intestinal microbiota in young children on T-cell and B-cell memory, and immune-mediated diseases (esp. Celiac disease and allergies);
  3. Abnormal IgE responses and memory B cells in allergic asthma and anaphylaxis, and how IgG induced by allergen-specific immunotherapy inhibits IgE-mediated effector cell activation.
  4. Diversity, specificity and durability of B-cell memory following vaccination or natural infection with zoonotic viruses (influenza, SARS-CoV2)

Research projects for students

Major achievements in the past years

  1. Dissecting stepwise differentiation of precursor-B cells in bone marrow, the regulation of Ig gene rearrangements including the roles of IL7R signaling and ID2 (J Immunol 2005;175:5912-5922Cell 2008;133:265-79; Cell 2009;238:435-448; Blood 2011;118:2116-2127 ; J Immunol 2013;191:1210-1219; Nucleic Acids Res 2016;44(1):175-86; Sci Rep. 2016;6:33924).
  2. Elucidating the genetic and immunological bases of primary antibody deficiencies (N Engl J Med 2006;354:1901-1912J Clin Invest 2010;120:1265-1274Front Immunol. 2019;10:2084, Front Immunol. 2019;10:768 , Front Immunol. 2019;10:2593).
  3. Unraveling the origin of diverse human memory B cell subsets from T-cell independent, T-cell dependent, and recurrent immune responses (J Exp Med 2007; 204:645-655Blood 2011;118:2150-8J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014; 34(3):688-697.e6; J Immunol 2015;195(4):1417-26 ; Immunol Cell Biol. 2017;95(9):744-752; J Immunol. 2018;201(7):1928-1935).
  4. Showing dysregulation of B-cell memory in allergy, and how this is affected by treatment (J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014;134(6):1346-1353.e9; Allergy. 2018;73(6):1331-1336; Clin Exp Allergy. 2018;48(6):679-690, Allergy. 2019;74(12):2394-2405 , Allergy. 2019;74(12):2342-2354, Allergy. 2020;75(5):1121-1132)
  5. Shaping of adaptive immunity in young children by non-genetic factors (J Infect Dis. 2016;213(2):233-42J Pediatr. 2016;170:126-134; J Leukoc Biol. 2017;101(4):949-956; J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017;139(6):1923-1934 )
  6. Detailed examination of immune memory and its durability following natural infection and vaccination (Clin Transl Immunology. 2020;9(10):e1199; Sci Immunol. 2020;5(54):eabf8891)

Jeffrey Modell Foundation Centre for Primary Immunodeficiencies Melbourne

A/Prof van Zelm is the director of the JMF Centre for Primary Immunodeficiencies, opened in June, 2018.


See recent publications for Menno van Zelm in the Monash RSS feed immediately below, at Pubmed and ResearcherID.

Training possibilities in the group

The group offers training possibilities for Honours and PhD students. Together with the student a specific research topic will be determined within one of the research lines of the group. Depending on the exact research project, applied techniques include several of the following techniques: Conventional and Spectral flow cytometry, cell sorting, single-cell RNAseq, AMNIS ImageStream, (RT-)PCR amplification, Sanger sequencing, recombinant DNA technology, and CRISPR-Cas9 mediated mutagenesis. During the training period, students learn multiple principles and theories in the fields of immunology, genetics and cell biology, and learn to design, (safely) perform, interpret and document experiments in the field of Molecular Immunology.

For more information, please contact A/Prof. Menno C. van Zelm (tel: +61 39903 0834, or e-mail:


Hons and MSc students

  • Ebony Blight 2021
  • Sabina Masinovic 2020
  • Charlotte Leijten 2019-2020
  • Gemma Hartley 2019
  • Rosalyn Cao 2018
  • Adam Nelson 2018
  • Tarnia Fischer 2018
  • Janice Klingenberg 2018
  • Floor Vissers 2018
  • Samuel de Jong 2016
  • Eliza Watson 2016
  • Fatemeh Ahmadi 2015
  • Liza Rijvers 2013-2014
  • Kyra Smit 2013-2014
  • Hessel van der Weide 2013
  • Sanne van de Bovenkamp 2012-2013
  • Ingrid Snijdewind 2011-2012

BSc students

  • Nicole Borggreven 2015
  • Lemelinda Marques 2014-2015
  • Jasper Rip 2014
  • Roel Kroek 2013-2014
  • Rachid Bouzid 2013-2014
  • Marleen Hoozemans 2012-2013
  • Dan Zhao 2012-2013
  • Michael Vermeulen 2009-2010
  • Abdullah Tarique 2010