Frits Koning studied biology and received his PhD degree in 1986 in the laboratory of Prof. Jon. J. van Rood on the generation and characterization of monoclonal antibodies to HLA-antigens and differentiation antigens. Hereafter, he worked as a postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of Dr. John E. Coligan at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, USA for 2 years, mainly focusing on the characterization of gamma delta T cells in mouse epithelia. Afterwards, he returned to Leiden to work as a research scientist on the role of gamma delta T cells in the human immune system. This work led him to study celiac disease, a gluten-induced disorder that is strongly associated with the presence of HLA-DQ2/8 and typically presents with an increased presence of gamma delta T cells in the affected intestine. Supported by a prestigious PIONIER grant he focused his attention on the HLA-DQ2/8 association. For this he introduced mass spectrometry for the characterization of HLA-binding peptides and was the first to characterize a gluten peptide that could trigger T cells isolated from small intestinal biopsies of patients with celiac disease. He further demonstrated that posttranslational modification of gluten peptides strongly enhances their capacity to bind to HLA-DQ2/8 and elicit CD4 T cell responses, and this is now considered a key event in celiac disease pathogenesis. In collaboration with the group of Prof. Jamie Rossjohn (Melbourne, Australia), crystal structures between HLA-DQ2/8-gluten and gluten-specific T cell receptors were generated, providing a molecular basis for the pathogenic T cell response in celiac disease.
In more recent work he introduced high-dimensional (imaging) mass cytometry in the LUMC and has used this to study the composition of the innate and adaptive immune system in tissue samples from healthy subjects and patients with celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. This work has already provided novel insight into the complexity of the tissue resident immune compartment and disease-associated changes therein. It is expected that such knowledge will help to improve patient-specific therapeutic approaches.
He has been the director and scientific coordinator of the Dutch Celiac Disease Consortium 2004-2014, and together with Dr. Janneke Samsom he is currently the coordinator of the TIMID consortium which aims to unravel common mechanisms underlying immune mediated disorders. He is partner and workpackage leader in the BIOMAP EU-IMI consortium.
In 2000/2001 Frits Koning had a sabbatical year in which he worked at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 he worked for a month in the University of Oslo, the University of Melbourne and the University of Chicago respectively.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Leiden University Fund, a member of the Board of Directors of the Dutch Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation, and a member of the Supervisory Board of ReumaNederland. He is an advisor of the European Food Safety Authority.