Hidde Ploegh is a biochemist whose area of interest is the immune system. He is known for his analysis of the pathways involved in antigen presentation by products of the Major histocompatibility Complex (MHC). Ploegh was born in 1953 in the Netherlands, where he attended Groningen University. He performed the work for his PhD at Harvard University and obtained his degree from Leiden University in 1981. He took a position as a junior group leader in the Institute for Genetics at the University of Cologne, Germany and in 1984 moved back to the Netherlands where he worked at the Netherlands Cancer Institute to head the Division of Cellular Biochemistry. In 1992 he was recruited to the Center for Cancer Research as a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1997 he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School as the director of its graduate program in immunology. In 2005 he joined the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ploegh is a member of EMBO, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a correspondent of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Hidde Ploegh's laboratory is interested in the biochemistry of immune recognition, and in mechanisms by which pathogens avoid being seen by the immune system. His earlier work centered on the analysis of the biochemical pathways involved in antigen processing and presentation by the products of the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), which led to studies into glycoprotein biosynthesis and trafficking more generally. The discovery that human cytomegalovirus exploits an unusual mechanism to dispose of Class I MHC products, critical for recognition by cytotoxic T cells of virus-infected cells, led to observations that illuminated new aspects of glycoprotein quality control. Ploegh has applied chemistry to develop activity-based probes to study proteasomal proteolysis and more specifically the role of ubiquitin-specific proteases, also in the context of herpesvirus infections. More recently Ploegh has combined the generation of camelid-derived antibody fragments with a protein engineering approach, based on the use of bacterial sortases in conjunction with peptide chemistry. This combination is being developed to enable the visualization, by non-invasive means, of anti-tumor and anti-virus immune responses using positron emission tomography.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 43: Immunology and Inflammation

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry