INITIATE – Training a new generation of researchers in the field of antiviral immunometabolism

INITIATE (innate-immunometablism as an antiviral target) is an Innovative Training Network funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action grant of the European Commission. With a possible budget of over 4 million euros, the INITIATE network will investigate the interaction between pathogenic viruses, the human immune system and host metabolism at the cellular level. The ultimate goal is to develop new strategies to treat and control serious human viral infections. Ten European leading research institutes and three pharmaceutical companies have established the consortium INITIATE and together they structured a research network that includes 15 newly recruited, international PhD students. In addition, four partner organizations joined the project to provide further state of the art scientific expertise, training and education. The project, which began on May 1 2019, is funded by the European Commission for four years under the H2020 framework programme (grant agreement number 813343) and is coordinated by Dr. B. van den Hoogen of the Department of Viroscience at Erasmus MC, Rotterdam in The Netherlands and Prof. J. Hiscott of Istituto Pasteur Italia in Rome.


A new discipline for a new generation

Dr. Van den Hoogen: “The young researchers will work in a large international network because this is a collaboration between Universities in Rotterdam, Dublin, Trondheim, Rome, Vienna, Leiden and Utrecht and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in Paris, Gothenburg and Leiden. It is this combination in particular that provides young researchers with a network structure that can accelerate and benefit their research careers for the rest of their lives.”

Dr. Hiscott added: “INITIATE brings together an outstanding group of internationally recognized biomedical researchers with expertise in molecular virology of human viruses, cellular and molecular immunology and host metabolism. With the establishment of the network, we have a unique opportunity to train young scientists and to advance biomedical research through our collaborative efforts”.


Interaction between viruses and human immune system

The viruses to be studied represent a list of serious human pathogens: influenza virus, dengue virus, MERS coronavirus, herpes simplex virus, respiratory syncytial virus and the human metapneumovirus.

In this research program, the interactions between these viruses and the human immune system will be investigated in light of recent discoveries demonstrating that an individual’s metabolic state can dramatically affect the strength of the immune response against a particular viral infection.

Dr. Van den Hoogen: ‘With INITIATE, we want to understand how interactions between viruses, the immune system and the metabolism work at the cellular level; in doing so, we will be able to use this knowledge to develop better therapeutics against viral infections. Knowledge about how an existing virus evades the immunometabolism system will enable us to combat new, emerging viruses better and faster. That would allow us to make significant advances in controlling viral infections. Furthermore, armed with this fundamental knowledge of viruses and immunometabolism, we can contribute as well to the development of gene therapies, with important implications for the treatment of cancer.’



Erasmus MC; Coordinator Dr. B. van den Hoogen, Prof. R. Fouchier (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Istituto Pasteur; Co-Coordinator Prof. J. Hiscott, Prof. A. Santoni (Rome, Italy)

Trinity College Dublin; Prof. L. O’Neill, Prof. C. O’Farrelly, Prof. A. Bowie (Dublin, Ireland)

Leiden University Medical Center; Prof. E. Snijder, Dr. M. Kikkert (Leiden, The Netherlands)

Research Center for Molecular Medicine; Dr. A. Bergthaler (Vienna, Austria)

Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Dr. M. Anthonsen (Trondheim, Norway)

University of Utrecht; Prof. F. van Kuppeveld (Utrecht, The Netherlands)

Stimunity; Dr. N. Manel (Paris, France)

AstraZeneca; Dr. K. Pardali (Gothenburg, Sweden)

Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V; Dr. R. Zahn (Leiden, The Netherlands)

Sovalacc B.V.; Prof. Eric Claasen, Linda van de Burgwal (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Agilent Technologies GmbH; Sofia Vikstrom (Waldbronn, Germany)

Biocrates Life Sciences AG; Guido Dallman (Innsbruck, Austria)

Elsevier; Donna Weerd-Wilson (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)


More information regarding INITIATE can be found at the network’s website:


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 813343.