In memoriam – Profesor Niels Lycke

Remembering Nils Lycke (1954-2022)

IN MEMORIAM. Professor Nils Lycke, a prominent researcher in the field of mucosal immunology and a long-time member of SWIMM, has died at the age of 68. Here, his colleagues at the University of Gothenburg share reminiscences to mark his passing, describing him as a generous and energetic scientist, who truly loved academic research.

On 23 October 2022 our dear colleague and friend, Nils Lycke, suddenly passed away. The shockwaves of Nils passing echoed through local, national and international immunology communities, particularly the mucosal immunology community where Nils has been a very active and esteemed member for decades.


Following his medical studies at GU, Nils became a licensed physician and pursued his PhD at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Gothenburg. Under the mentorship of Jan Holmgren, Nils defended his PhD in 1986 on immunity to cholera toxin. This turned out to be the beginning of a long and very productive career in mucosal immunology. An important driving force in Nils’ passion for his field was no doubt due to his postdoctoral time at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the mentorship of Warren Strober.


After returning to Gothenburg, Nils was awarded a Professorship in Clinical Immunology and held several leadership positions including the Head Clinical Immunology and Transfusion Medicine at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Nils’ research spanned adjuvant and vaccine development and mechanistic studies of vaccine-induced protection against infections in the gastrointestinal-, genital- and respiratory tracts including Helicobacter pylori, Chlamydia trachomatis, Norovirus and Influenza; he also studied autoimmune diseases including arthritis and myasthenia gravis. Nils’ work with adjuvant development to improve vaccine efficacy focused on CTA1-DD, an adjuvant he conceived and patented. Nils’ studies of CTA1-DD are reported in over 40 of his publications, reflecting his ability to combine basic immunology and new technologies with murine models to both develop vaccines and understand how they work.


Nils spread his passion and knowledge in immunology by participating in international conferences and professional organizations. Indeed, Nils organized several conferences in Gothenburg including the Scandinavian Society for Immunology, The European Mucosal Immunology Group (EMIG) and the 18th Germinal Center Conference. Supporting young scientists was also a major theme in a hallmark achievement of Nils, namely, his creation of the Mucosal Immunobiology and Vaccine Center (MIVAC), that Nils directed during 1996-2010. MIVAC created an excellent scientific environment, ad supported technical and commercialization platforms and provided scientific support and leadership training for young researchers. Nils was also involved in several EU-funded projects and successfully lead the Universal Flu Vaccine project UNIVACFLU. Under Nils’ leadership, this Marie Curie Network for Initial Training succeeded in establishing a long-term European network based on a new cohort of young professionals. This is yet another example of Nils’ commitment to provide opportunities for young scientists.


Nils’ retirement in February of this year capped his formal career marked with nearly 200 peer-review research articles, dozens of reviews and book chapters as well as mentoring over 30 young scientists as PhD students and postdocs. Nils’ expertise was recognized internationally, and he took on demanding tasks including Editor for Mucosal Immunology and Specialty Chief Editor of Mucosal Immunity for Frontiers in Immunology. Despite being retired, Nils continued to be active writing manuscripts, collaborating in ongoing projects and participating in seminars. He participated in our most recent seminar in the series he created where, in his true love for science, regardless of the topic, he asked curious questions and was engaged in the discussion. Nils’ scientific knowledge, joy in the research process, passion to discuss results and willingness to share his knowledge with others made him a valued colleague to us all. Our thoughts are with Nils’ family, including Susanna Lycke-Cardell the former president of SWIMM. Nils will be truly missed.


Mary Jo Wick and Ulf Yrlid