prof. dr. J.A.M. (José) Borghans

prof. dr. J.A.M. (José) Borghans

Full Professor
prof. dr. J.A.M. (José) Borghans
  • Center for Translational Immunology (CTI) Research

Research Programs

Infection & Immunity



José Borghans runs an interdisciplinary research group, with a main focus on the quantification of leukocyte dynamics. She was originally trained as a theoretical immunologist at Utrecht University, and obtained her PhD in 2000 on studies of lymphocyte and MHC diversity. After her PhD, she started to work in experimental immunology laboratories, aiming to bridge the gap between wet lab experiments and mathematical modelling. Funded by a Marie-Curie Fellowship, she worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Institut Pasteur in Paris studying lymphocyte homeostasis. During another postdoctoral period, funded by an NWO Veni grant, she worked at Sanquin Research in Amsterdam to study lymphocyte dynamics in HIV infection. She has been working at UMCU since 2004, funded by several NWO grants, and was appointed Associate Professor in 2009 and Full Professor of Quantitative Immunology in 2021. She has formed an interdisciplinary research group with Kiki Tesselaar, which facilitates the close integration of experimental and mathematical immunology. Using state of the art immunological techniques, including in vivo stable isotope labeling in mice and men, the group studies the dynamics of different types of leukocytes in homeostasis, during healthy aging and in different diseases, including leukemia, HIV infection, and post-stem cell transplantation. In addition, she is heading the Computational Immunology Core of the CTI, which brings together all researchers using computational techniques to study the immune system.

Side Activities

Grant reviewer for:

  • NWO-ENW Open competition
  • NWO Replication Studies
  • Israel Science Foundation
  • Center for AIDS Research
  • Medical Research Council
  • Wellcome Investigator Award in Science

Associate Editor of Frontiers Immunology.

Member of the International Network on Quantitative T-cell Immunology and Immunotherapy (QuanTII), funded by the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union.


Speaker’s fee for:

  • Lecture Immune deficiency Expert Meeting Noordwijk, sponsored by Takeda Nederland (payments to UMC Utrecht)
  • Lecture at Novartis, Basel, Switzerland (payments to UMC Utrecht)

Yearly fee for:

  • Teaching in the Clinical Technology Bachelor’s, a collaborative Bachelor’s programme of TU Delft, Erasmus Medical Center and Leiden University Medical Center (payments to UMC Utrecht)
  • Teaching in the Infection & Immunity Master at Erasmus Medical Center (payments to UMC Utrecht)

Other external teaching:

  • Lectures National Conference for highly gifted children, UU
  • Lecture Clinical Immunology, VU Amsterdam
  • Lectures and computer practicals Immuno-Biology, Bachelor’s Biology UU


Research collaboration:

  • Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR, Leiden) (payments to UMC Utrecht)





  • Interview on website and in Newsletter of IVD Utrecht on the use of wildling mice, 2021 Interview José Borghans: Using wildling mice to improve immunology | Animal Welfare Body Utrecht (
  • “Hoe werkt het immunologisch geheugen?” Article (in Dutch) by Pauline van Schayk based on interview with José Borghans on the UMCU-website, March 2020 Hoe werkt het immunologisch geheugen? - UMC Utrecht
  • Public lecture “The Maths of Memory” in Maynooth, Ireland, 2019
  • Opinion paper: Van den Broek, Borghans & van Wijk. We have been naive about naive T cells. The Scientist 2018 April 6
    Opinion: We Have Been Naive About Naive T Cells | The Scientist Magazine® (
  • Interview with José Borghans & Kiki Tesselaar in “30 years Centre for Human Drug Research”
  • “HIV evolves into less deadly form.” Article by Clare Wilson based on interview with José Borghans. New Scientist, 6 December 2014
    HIV evolves into less deadly form | New Scientist
  • “The importance of cell population quantification”. Article based on interview with PhD student Liset Westera. Immuun, for professionals in the immunology chain, December 2014
  • “Met man en muis: De rol van de thymus.” Article (in Dutch) based on interview with José Borghans. Immuun, voor professionals in de immunologische keten, December 2013
    Interview José Borghans: Wildling-muizen voor betere immunologie | Instantie voor Dierenwelzijn Utrecht (
  • “Immunological Research of Mice and Men.” Article based on interview with José Borghans. Utrecht Medical Sciences Research Magazine, Spring 2011
  • Development of the exhibition on Viral Evolution to celebrate the Darwin year, University Museum Utrecht, 2009
  • Public lecture, University Museum Utrecht, “The race between HIV and the immune system”, for children from the age of 7 years, 2008 & 2009
  • Van Baarle, Miedema & Borghans. Chronische Immuunactivatie als verklaring voor CD4-T-cel verlies bij HIV-infectie. Tijdschrijft voor Infectieziekten 3, 93-99, 2006
  • Borghans & De Boer “Diversiteit in het immuunsysteem” in “De Wiskundige Kat, de Biologische Muis en de Jacht op Inzicht: Verkenningen op het Grensvlak van Wiskunde en Biologie” (Heesterbeek H, Diekmann O & Metz H, e)ditors), Epsilon uitgaven (Utrecht)
  • Author of the Chapter “Diversiteit in het immuunsysteem” in a book for secondary school pupils “De Wiskundige Kat, de Biologische Muis en de Jacht op Inzicht: Verkenningen op het Grensvlak van Wiskunde en Biologie” (Heesterbeek H, Diekmann O & Metz H, editors), Epsilon uitgaven (Utrecht), 2004


Fellowship and Awards

NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) Aspasia grant 2021 

NWO Vici grant 2019

NVVI Thesis Award 2014 for the thesis of Liset Westera, under her supervision

NWO Aspasia grant 2009

NWO Vidi grant 2008

NWO Meervoud grant 2007

NWO Veni grant 2002

Marie-Curie Fellowship, EU, 2000

Young Researcher's Award, Unilever, 1996

Research Output (106)

The power of simplicity:Inaugural lecture Prof. José Borghans

Borghans José 21 Jun 2023, 20 p.

De kracht van eenvoud:Oratie Prof. José Borghans

Borghans José 21 Jun 2023, 21 p.

Are homeostatic mechanisms aiding the reconstitution of the T-cell pool during lymphopenia in humans?

Baliu-Piqué Mariona, Tesselaar Kiki, Borghans José A M 22 Nov 2022, In: Frontiers in Immunology. 13

Effect of cellular aging on memory T-cell homeostasis

Swain Arpit C., Borghans José A.M., de Boer Rob J. 8 Aug 2022, In: Frontiers in Immunology. 13 , p. 1-15

Finding Gene Regulatory Networks in Psoriasis:Application of a Tree-Based Machine Learning Approach

Deng Jingwen, Schieler Carlotta, Borghans José A.M., Lu Chuanjian, Pandit Aridaman 7 Jul 2022, In: Frontiers in Immunology. 13

Turnover of Murine Cytomegalovirus-Expanded CD8<sup>+</sup> T Cells Is Similar to That of Memory Phenotype T Cells and Independent of the Magnitude of the Response

Baliu-Piqué Mariona, Drylewicz Julia, Zheng Xiaoyan, Borkner Lisa, Swain Arpit C., Otto Sigrid A., de Boer Rob J., Tesselaar Kiki, Cicin-Sain Luka, Borghans José A.M. 15 Feb 2022, In: Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950). 208 , p. 799-806 8 p.

Quantification of T-cell dynamics during latent cytomegalovirus infection in humans

van den Berg Sara P.H., Derksen Lyanne Y., Drylewicz Julia, Nanlohy Nening M., Beckers Lisa, Lanfermeijer Josien, Gessel Stephanie N., Vos Martijn, Otto Sigrid A., de Boer Rob J., Tesselaar Kiki, Borghans José A.M., van Baarle Debbie Dec 2021, In: PLoS Pathogens. 17

Longitudinal characterization of the mumps-specific HLA-A2 restricted T-cell response after mumps virus infection

Lanfermeijer Josien, Nühn Marieke M., Emmelot Maarten E., Poelen Martien C.M., van Els Cécile A.C.M., Borghans José A.M., van Baarle Debbie, Kaaijk Patricia, de Wit Jelle Dec 2021, In: Vaccines. 9

Latent CMV Infection Is Associated With Lower Influenza Virus-Specific Memory T-Cell Frequencies, but Not With an Impaired T-Cell Response to Acute Influenza Virus Infection

van den Berg Sara P.H., Lanfermeijer Josien, Jacobi Ronald H.J., Hendriks Marion, Vos Martijn, van Schuijlenburg Roos, Nanlohy Nening M., Borghans José A.M., van Beek Josine, van Baarle Debbie, de Wit Jelle 5 May 2021, In: Frontiers in Immunology. 12

All research output

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