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After receiving her medical degree from the University of Antwerp, Els Henckaerts obtained a Belgian American Educational Fellowship, which allowed her to join the laboratory of Professor Hans Snoeck at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York to perform genetic analyses in mice to identify genes that regulate stem cell proliferation and maintenance. She did her postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Professor Michael Linden in Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she developed stem cell models to study virus-host interactions. In 2005, she was awarded a Charles H. Revson Senior Fellowship in Biomedical Sciences to study adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated site-specific integration in embryonic stem cells. She joined the Department of Infectious Diseases as a research fellow in 2007 and was appointed as a Lecturer in 2012. Her current research focusses on virus-host interactions, viral epigenetics, AAV gene therapy and neurodegenerative diseases.

Els has been appointed as a Professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation at KU Leuven, Belgium, and she will assume this post in October 2019. She will also maintain a research group at King’s College London.