Benson Ogunjimi

Benson Ogunjimi


Campus Drie Eiken
Universiteitsplein 1
2610 Wilrijk, BEL

Very short bio

I have had the pleasure to receive broad training both within the “natural sciences" (MSc in Physics @UAntwerp) as well as the "biomedical sciences" (MD @UAntwerp). Next, I received the opportunity to obtain a joint interdisciplinary PhD (via a FWO ID mandate) in Medical Sciences (@UAntwerp) and Sciences (@UHasselt).

As a  researcher I continue to use interdisciplinary approaches to study a wide range of research topics (discussed below). As a clinician I am mainly active as a paediatrician with an outspoken focus on rheumatology and immunology.

I currently have four “broad” research lines ongoing. Although I discuss them from separately many crossovers exist between the research lines. I have recently founded the Antwerp Center for Translational Immunology and Virology (ACTIV) in order to centralise all of my research activities.

Varicella-zoster virus 

VZV is a very important research focus of mine and various research projects are focused on VZV.

1) VZV and the exogenous boosting theory

This was the focus of my PhD and was assessed from an interdisciplinary perspective combining data from epidemiological, immunological and computational studies. In short, our studies have supported the hypothesis of a boosted immune response against VZV after re-exposure and our data suggest that this boosted immune "state” lasts for about 1-2 years (eg Ogunjimi et al, eLife, 2015, Ogunjimi et al, Scientific Reports, 2017).

Interestingly, we also found that pediatricians (having a very high exposure frequency to chickenpox) have 3-4 fold higher VZV-specific cellular immunity (Ogunjimi et al, Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 2014).

2) Risk factors for neurological VZV

In this research focus I study the risk factors for both herpes zoster and neurological complications of chickenpox.

In case of chickenpox, we have found that mutations in the genes POLR3A and POLR3C lead to severe VZV infections, thereby providing the first proof that the POLR3 protein complex acts as a DNA sensor for VZV (Ogunjimi et al, Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2017).

In case of herpes zoster (following VZV reactivation) we have been able to show the following:

- herpes zoster occurrence is associated (in time) with herpes simplex and “common infections” occurrences (Ogunjimi et al, Journal of Infection, 2015)

- cytomegalovirus seropositivity is associated with risk of herpes zoster (Ogunjimi et al, Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, 2015)

- the predicted diversity of unique T-cell receptors against VZV is lower in patients with postherpetic neuralgia (Meysman et al, Journal of Virology, 2015)



I am the co-founder and biomedical coordinator of the Antwerp Unit for Data Analysis and Computation in Immunology and Sequencing (AUDACIS). AUDACIS is a consortium that aims to integrate OMICS data to perform an in-depth “personalised” analysis of immunological processes. In particular, we use gene expression sequencing of blood as well as T-cell receptor sequencing to analyse immune responses in different settings.

So far we have published data on:

- the relation between HLA types and the risk of herpes zoster (Meysman et al, Journal of Virology, 2015)

- the first published TCR-epitope classifier (De Neuter et al, Immunogenetics, 2017)

- the first documentation of POLR3 as a DNA sensor for VZV (Ogunjimi et al, Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2017)


Epidemiological/computational modeling

My epidemiological/computational work is part of the larger framework of the SIMID consortium.

In the past, we have been able to show that empirically obtained social contact matrices are more efficient to use then WAIFW matrices built by means of a priori matrix assumptions (Ogunjimi et al, Mathematical Biosciences, 2009).

We were also able to present the first individual based model for VZV transmission dynamics in which we were able to integrate immunological, virological and epidemiological data (Ogunjimi et al, eLife, 2015).

I currently focus on within-host modeling of immune response dynamics by means of ordinary differential equations.


(Paediatric) Rheumatology

Throughout my clinical activities (paediatric rheumatology @UZA/UZB/UZG/ZNA) I participate at several studies related to paediatric rheumatology. I am currently in the phase of starting-up new studies in this area of interest.


Statute & functions

Zelfstandig academisch pers.

  • Assistant Professor

Bijzonder academisch personeel

  • FWO sr clinical investigator