Niklas Björkström

Niklas Björkström

Professor/specialist physician

About me

Niklas Björkström is a research group leader at Center for Infectious Medicine, Karolinska Institutet and a physician at Clinical Microbiology, Karolinska University Hospital. Björkström earned his medical and doctoral degrees at Karolinska Institutet. He performed postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA, and have been a principal investigator at Karolinska Institutet since 2014. Björkström has authored >100 articles within the fields of immunology, infection, and cancer. The main focus of his research is to understand the biology of human tissue-resident lymphocytes in health and disease with a particular focus on liver and bile duct disorders as well as on pregnancy. His research group is specialized in advanced immunological methods for analysis of rare populations of human immune cells.

Research description

Our research group at the Department of medicine Huddinge, performs translational immunological research studying tissue-resident natural killer cells in the human liver and uterus.

A key focus of the group is to gain insights into the basic biology of tissue resident NK cells in liver and uterus. Through unique collaborations with clinical units at the Karolinska University Hospital, we receive a high number of tissue samples. With respect to the uterus, key questions of interest include detailed characterization of the uterine NK cell KIR receptor repertoires, functional studies of uterine tissue resident NK cells, as well as trying to elucidate the ontogeny of uterine NK cells. In the liver we have a specific focus on human tissue-resident CD49a+ intrahepatic NK cells and study their phenotype, function, development, and role during liver diseases.

Moreover, we have an interest in the role of natural killer (NK) cells in the pathogenesis of liver diseases such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, steatohepatitis (NASH), and hepatitis virus infections (HBV, HCV, HDV). These diseases strongly predispose for tumor development in the human liver and we are also performing tumorimmunological studies evaluating the capacity of NK cells to recognize hepatocellular carcinoma and cholagiocarcinoma. Outside the liver, we also have an interest in NK-cell function during hemorrhagic fever virus infections.

Our studies include phenotypic and functional assessments of NK cells with a focus on differentiation, education, and functional and transcriptional regulation. We work with high-dimensional 22-parameter flow cytometry, CyTOF, microscopy techniques, and new tools for visualization and analysis of highly complex flow cytometry data including SPADE, SNE, and Citrus. We function in close collaboration with other groups at Karolinska Institutet, including groups at the Center for Infectious Medicine (CIM). We participate in Karolinska Institutet - Hannover Medical School exchange program, in the International PSC Study Group network, and have multiple national and international collaborations.


2016, Associate Professor in Immunology, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

2013, Swedish Medical License, Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden

2011-2012, Postdoctoral Fellow, VRC, NIH, USA

2011, PhD, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

2010, MD, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Academic honours, awards and prizes

  • 2021                        NovoNordisk Foundation Emerging Investigator
  • 2020                        Anders Jahre Award for Young Researchers
  • 2020                        ERC Starting Grant
  • 2016                        SSF Future Research Leader Award
  • 2016                        Wallenberg Academy Fellow Award
  • 2015                        United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Rising Star
  • 2014                        NovoNordisk Young Excellence Award for Young Researchers
  • 2013                        SSMFs Stora Anslag
  • 2012                        Sven Gards award for best thesis within virology at KI
  • 2011                        Jonas Söderquist scholarship for a young talented virology researcher
  • 2010                        Asklepios award for best publication 2010 by a young researcher
  • 2008                        Poster award, 38th Annual meeting of the SSI
  • 2008                        ISAC student award recipient
  • 2006                        The McKinsey Sweden award