About us

Onderzoeksgroep LebeerLab

The idea behind ​​Isala originated in Prof. Sarah Lebeer’s research group – a team of scientists who are fascinated by bacteria and their positive influence on our health. This multidisciplinary team includes microbiologists, bioinformaticians and bioengineers who often collaborate with doctors like gynaecologists and general practitioners as well. The team is driven by serious concerns about the widespread use of antibiotics and the lack of alternatives. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, more people will be dying of antibiotic-resistant microbes than of cancer if we don’t start using antibiotics more responsibly. Microbiome research can help us design alternative strategies for antibiotic use, but also many other approaches that could benefit women’s health. That’s why this team of scientists will be analysing the precious Isala samples with the utmost care.

Sarah Lebeer

Sarah Lebeer is a professor, microbiologist, and bioengineer. She has been studying the potential of lactobacilli for over 15 years. Sarah recently received an important European grant to investigate the importance of these bacteria on our health in even more detail, such as with this project.

Sarah Ahannach

Sarah Ahannach is a PhD researcher and passionate about Women’s Health. She conducted Isala’s pilot study. Sarah is responsible for examining all swabs in the lab. She will analyze the microbiome and will study beneficial microorganisms in the swabs.

Eline Oerlemans

Eline Oerlemans is a postdoctoral researcher and worked on the importance of the vaginal microbiome during her PhD. Eline works with research data from Isala both in the lab and behind the computer.

Stijn Wittouck

Stijn Wittouck is a bioinformatician specialized in analyzing DNA sequences of bacteria. He works on a PhD topic related to lactobacilli’s evolution and ecology.  He has a broad interest in the bacteria that live in and on our bodies. Stijn plans the bioinformatic and biostatistical analyses of the samples from Isala.

Gilbert Donders

Gilbert Donders is a gynecologist with expertise in vulvo-vaginitis, vulvodynia, and HPV infections/ vaccinations at the University Hospital of Antwerp and the Regional Hospital in Tienen. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Antwerp and the KU Leuven. He also founded the research organization Femicare.

Veronique Verhoeven

Veronique Verhoeven is a professor and general practitioner specializing in infectious diseases, human papillomavirus, and cervical cancer. She researches detecting infections and cervical cancer on vaginal samples that girls and women take from themselves.

But these researchers depend on sufficient samples for their ambitious research design. They are therefore assisted by, among others, Prof. Charlotte De Backer of the MIOS UAntwerpen Research Group and her team, Studio Maria, the Provincial Institute for Hygiene (PIH),  Sensoa vzw, and almost the entire UAntwerp communication team. They help motivate enough participants and communicate about the importance of vaginal health.

Thank you for financing our research

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
(Grant agreement 852600 Lacto-Be0)
University Antwerp

Thank you to our advisory board

RZ Tienen
Provincie Antwerpen
Endemic UA
Studio Maria