Nicola Harris was born in New Zealand where she completed her undergraduate studies and PhD thesis. In 2002 she moved to Switzerland as a postdoctoral fellow where she worked with Hans Hengartner and the Nobel Laureate Rolf Zinkernagel at the Institute for Experimental Immunology, University of Zurich. In July 2005 she joined the ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor and in August 2009 she gained a position as an Assistant Professor at the Swiss Vaccine Research Institute (SVRI) housed at the Global Health Institute, Department of Life Sciences, EPFL. In 2012 she gained a prestigious ERC starting grant, and in 2014 she was promoted to the role of Associate Professor at the EPFL.
The main focus of her work involves investigations of immune responsiveness and homeostasis in response to intestinal bacteria and helminths.
Enseignement & Phd
- Life Sciences Engineering,
- Doctoral Program in Molecular Life Sciences
Our researchThe intestinal mucosa represents an extensive interface between the body and the external environment that is constantly exposed to environmental micro-organisms. Amongst these commensal bacteria are present in vast numbers (1012 per gram of intestinal contents) in all individuals at all times. Worms (helminths) can also establish chronic infections within our intestines and were present in a near ubiquitous manner throughout mammalian evolution. Today intestinal helminths still infect approximately 1/3 of the worlds population, with the heaviest infections found in children living in poor communities within developing countries.
Our work aims to investigate; i) how the immune system can provide protection against heavy burdens of intestinal helminths, and ii) how intestinal helminths and/or commensal bacteria can modulate the responsiveness of our immune system. In regard to the latter aim we would like to understand why and how reduced exposure to specific intestinal bacteria species and/or intestinal helminths can predispose towards increased autoimmune and allergic diseases.