Our research is about host immunological and metabolomic responses to acute infections and vaccination.
Host response to severe infections
Infectious agents are constantly challenging us humans as biological beings. An infection initiates a complex cascade of biochemical signals that is determined upon just as complex hereditary and environmental factors. In order to be able to study these interdependent signals there is a ubiquitous need for well controlled clinical cohorts of patients with high quality clinical meta data.
The focus of Johan Normark has been to understand basic pathogenic properties of infectious agents and how this translates into clinical features in the patients. The early career of Johan Normark was focused on infectious diseases in low-income settings and specifically in co-infections involving bacterial and the malaria parasite P. falciparum. The first studies as independent researcher was conducted in order to study co-infection and acute phase responses in children, this time in Rwanda. The project revealed the acute phase response in malaria and novel biomarkers and precognitive aids for clinicians working with malaria.
When Johan Normark joined the Department of Clinical Microbiology in 2017 as a group leader, he built up a clinical research platform at the Infectious diseases Clinic at the University hospital of Northern Sweden in Umeå. He established many collaborations within the University, within Sweden and abroad, among these were experts in molecular biology, epigenetics, chaemometry and immunology. The first years were spent on strengthening these networks and the pursuit of translational bed-to-bench related research, mainly in metabolomic acute phase analysis. In 2019 he received funding from the Wallenberg foundations and became a Wallenberg Center for Molecular Medicine associated researcher.
The COVID-19 pandemic became an obvious turning point in the whole scientific community at the Department and the University. The clinic was inundated with patients with severe symptoms and there was an evident lack of knowledge as how to manage the patients.
Johan Normark is the head of a major effort to study different aspects of COVID-19 (CoVUm) which is a national effort joined by infectious diseases clinician collegues in Örebro, Karlstad and Västerås. The study has recruited over 500 individuals in the early phase of COVID-19 with regular sampling at regular intervals as well as physiological and functional check-ups.
The clinical cohort made it also possible to implement a highly sensitive serological method developed by the Mattias Forsell lab to determine immunity to the disease using a distance testing approach. It has shown to be extremely useful both for epidemiological research and determining vaccine responses. The consortium members use the clinical cohort to understand organ specific debilitating effects of the virus and the long-term effects of the disease.
As a continuation of CoVUm and through a generous grant from Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation Johan Normark is part of a consortium led by Clas Ahlm together with Mattias Forsell researching the direct effects and longevity of responses of mRNA vaccination against COVID-19. The information is useful for not only for individual clinicians but also important for national bodies in the implementation of vaccine strategies.
Head of research
Johan NormarkAssociate professor, associate professor, consultant (attending) physician, other position