Assistant Professor, Group Leader

Federico Iovino

Assistant professor

Principal Investigator and Group Leader

In my lab we investigate host-pathogen interactions during bacterial meningitis pathogenesis.

About me

Dr. Federico Iovino has studied Human Biology and Biomedical Sciences, bachelor and master, at the University of Pavia in Italy. After his undergraduate studies, he moved to the University Medical Center of Groningen, The Netherlands, to perform his PhD in Medical Microbiology under the supervision of Prof. Jan Maarten van Dijl and Prof. Grietje Molema studying how Streptococcus pneumoniae interact with endothelial cells causing invasive pneumococcal disease, in particular meningitis. During his PhD in 2010 Federico has been visiting PhD student in the lab of Prof. Carlos Orihuela in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, USA. His PhD studies on pneumococcal meningitis pathogenesis have been published by international microbiology and infectious diseases journals such as Cellular Microbiology, Infection and Immunity and mBio

After his PhD graduation in November 2013, Dr. Federico Iovino immediately started his postdoc in December 2013 at the Karolinska Institutet in the laboratory of Prof. Birgitta Henriques-Normark where he continued my studies on pneumococcal meningitis. His postdoc studies have been published in leading international journals like The Journal of Clinical Investigation, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, The Journal of Infectious Diseases and Trends in Microbiology.

Dr. Federico Iovino was awarded in November 2018 with the 4-year funding for Assistant Professor position by the Karolinska Institutet Board of Research. Federico has started his own research team within the Unit of Prof. Birgitta Henriques-Normark until December 2020; Federico is one of the 2020 awardee of Starting Grant in Medicine and Health from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), and in January 2021 he started his own laboratory of neuro-infections and neuro-inflammation at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. the Iovino´s group investigates host-pathogen interaction during bacterial meningitis pathogenesis. 

The Iovino Lab


      Alumni (former members)

  • Mahebali Tabusi, Undergraduate student (Biomedicine Master Program), and Research assistant
  • Maria Lysandrou, Undergraduate student (Biomedicine Bachelor Program)
  • Mariana Oliveira, Undergraduate student (Biomedicine Bachelor Program)
  • Matas Grabauskas, Undergraduate student (Biomedicine Bachelor Program)

Research description

Neurological sequelae caused by meningitis: Interaction between pneumococci and neurons

Neurons are the main cell component of the brain, and mediate many functions controlled by the brain. Neurological sequelae caused by bacterial infection of the brain occur in 50-70% of meningitis survivors and are often related to neuronal damage. Our goal is to study how pneumococci can interact with neurons, invade and kill neuronal cells.

Publication by the Iovino Group:

PLOS Pathogens, 2021


Blockade of pneumococcal interaction with neurons, a novel therapeutic strategy to prevent neuronal damage post-bacterial meningitis

Following up our recent discovery that ß-actin mediates pneumococcal binding to neuronal plasma membrane, we are now investigating novel approaches to block the interaction of S. pneumoniae with neuronal ß-actin to protect neurons during bacterial meningitis pathogenesis. 


Study the role of neurons as "helper cells" in brain´s immunity towards bacterial infections

Neurons, as well as other eukaryotic cells, use the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) and autophagy to degrade mis-folded proteins. Brain endothelial cells were previously shown to use the UPS system to kill intracellular pneumococci ( We want to investigate how neurons can use the UPS and autophagy to eliminate intracellular pneumococci and protect themselves from bacterial infections during meningitis pathogenesis. 


The interplay between pneumococci and microglia, the primary immune cells of the brain

Study the biology of how microglia sense bacterial pathogens and initiate phagocytosis and/or neuroinflammatory process during meningitis pathogenesis; Study how pneumococci in the brain can survive and grow within microglia.

Publication by the Iovino Group:

Frontiers in Microbiology, 2019


Study the pattern of entry of the brain by blood-borne S. pneumoniae

Using our bacteremia-derived meningitis mouse model and whole brain microscopy imaging, we want to identify what are the brain regions/lobes that are mostly affected by pneumococcal invasion upon penetration of the blood-brain barrier. 


The relationship between bacterial meningitis and dementia

Many molecular processes, like the injury of neuronal cells and the neuro-inflammation process, are common in both bacterial meningitis and neurodegenerative diseases. We want to investigate to what extent the neuronal damage caused by a bacterial infection of the brain can increase the risk for onset of dementia, such as Parkinson´s disease. 

Publication by the Iovino Group:

Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 2021

Teaching portfolio

Biomedicine Bachelor Program - Immunology and Microbiology Course

Bacteriology. Role: Course Coordinator and Lecturer

Bacteriology Laboratory. Role: Course Coordinator and Lecturer

Biomedicine Master Program - Frontiers in Biomedicine Course

Role: Examining teacher

Study Program of Medicine - Disease and Illness Course

Medical Microbiology. Role: Laboratory Teacher and Lecturer

Infection Immunology. Role: Seminar teacher


2013  PhD in Medical Microbiology (University of Groningen, The Netherlands).

2008  Master in Experimental and Applied Biology, Class of Human Biology and Biomedical Sciences (University of Pavia, Italy).

2006  Bachelor in Biological Sciences, Class of Human Biology and Biomedical Sciences (University of Pavia, Italy).

Academic honours, awards and prizes


Total number of publications on Pubmed: 23

Pubmed link:

Total number of last-author and corresponding-author publications: 5

Total number of first-author publications: 15

Total citations: 453 (Google Scholar); H-index: 11 (Google Scholar); Total Impact Points: 138,11


Research Grants

2021: Magnus Bergvall Foundation; Stiftelsen för Gamla Tjänarinnor

2020: Vetenskapsrådet Starting Grant Medicine & Health; Bjarne Ahlström Foundation Award in Clinical Neurology; Karolinska Institutet Research Grant Foundation;   Clas Groschinsky FoundationHKH Kronprinsessan Lovisa Association for Child Care; Magnus Bergvall Foundation; Tore Nilsson Foundation

2019: StratNeuro Start-up grant; Petrus and Augusta Hedlund Foundation; Åke Wiberg Foundation; Clas Groschinsky Foundation; Loo and Hans Osterman Foundation (Geriatrics); Fredrik and Ingrid Thuring Foundation

2018: Petrus and Augusta Hedlund Foundation; Jeansson Foundation; Åke Wiberg Foundation; HKH Kronprinsessan Lovisa Association for Child Care; Stiftelsen Längmanska Kulturfonden; Karolinska Institutet Research Foundation (Pediatrics); Karolinska Institutet Research Grant Foundation; Fredrik and Ingrid Thuring Foundation

2017: Jeansson Foundation; Åke Wiberg Foundation

2016: Karolinska Institutet for Doctoral Education (KID) Grant (co-applicant)


Awards and Prizes

Bjarne Ahlström Minnesfonds pris 2020 for research in Clinical Neurology


Reviewer activity

International Journals: mBio; Journal of Bacteriology; PLOS Pathogens; The International Journal of Medical Microbiology; Microbiology (Microbiology Society); Microbial Pathogenesis; Pathogens and Disease (FEMS); Virulence; Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology; Frontiers in Immunology; Frontiers in Pediatrics; Microorganisms MDPI; Biomedicines MDPI; Pathogens MDPI; Antibiotics MDPI; Infectious Disease Reports MDPI; Biomedicines MDPI; Journal of Innate Immunity; Current Research in Microbial Sciences; Infection and Drug Resistance; Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology; Cell Systems; Journal of Neuroinflammation; Brain Research; Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology; Experimental and Molecular Pathology; Annals of Medicine; BMJ (British Medical Journal) Case Reports; PLOS One.

Grant applications: UK Medical Research Council (MRC); CIISA grant call (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Lisbon, Portugal).


Editorial activity

Guest Editor at Vaccines MDPI (IF 4.086). Special Issues:

Topic Editor at Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology (IF 4.123). Research Topic:

Editor of the book on the subject Streptococcus pneumoniae, new volume for lab protocol based book series Methods in Molecular Biology, published by Springer.

Published book chapters (available on Pubmed):

Editor of the Section Clinical Infectious Diseases, part of the Encyclopedia of Infection and Immunity, published by Elsevier (scheduled publication September 2021).

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