14 September 2017

Innovative public-private partnerships

Grants for Aletta Kraneveld, Peter van der Sluijs and Andries Meijerink

Researchers of the Faculty of Science have benefitted greatly from NWO’s Chemistry Innovation Fund. Both Aletta Kraneveld (Pharmaceutical Sciences) and Peter van der Sluijs (Chemistry) have been awarded a LIFT subsidy, and Andries Meijerink (Chemistry) has received a CHIPP subsidy. They will work with an external firm to conduct research that should lead to innovative applications.

Aletta Kraneveld will join with Nutricia Research to study how mother’s milk sugars bind to the cell. Peter van der Sluijs will work with biotech firm Galapagos to research the transport of the defective protein that causes Cystic Fibrosis, and how it can be influenced by substances that Galapagos has developed to correct the defect. Meijerink will collaborate with Kees Hummelen (RUG) and Marie Anne van de Haar from Seaborough Life Science to develop new nanomaterials for more effective light therapy to treat skin conditions.  

Chemistry sweetens the detection of milk sugars

Aletta Kraneveld (Utrecht University) with Jeroen van Bergenhenegouwen (Nutricia Research)

Milk oligosaccharides are unique sugar structures in mother’s milk. In addition to being ‘food for bugs’ in the intestines, these sugars are also important for the child’s immune system and brain development. However, scientists are as yet uncertain exactly how and where these sugars function with the cells.

Kraneveld and Van Bergenhenegouwen aim to make tiny changes to the sugars at the molecular level, without making them lose their function. They will then develop methods to determine how and where these sugars bond to and in the cell. The technique they develop may eventually be used to characterise the binding proteins in these unique sugars.

Molecules that work together to fight Cystic Fibrosis

Peter van der Sluijs (Universiteit Utrecht) in cooperation with Katja Conrath (Galapagos)

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is the most common incurable genetic disease. It is caused by changes to the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene, or CFTR.

In healthy people, the CFTR protein functions as a channel in the cell membrane for the export of salt from the cells. In CF patients, however, the protein does not attach to the cell membrane in a functional form. In this project, Van der Sluijs and Conrath will study how mutant and functional forms of the CFTR protein reach the cell membrane.

They will also examine how substances developed by Galapagos affect the transport of CFTR to the surface of the cell. These are new substances that should preferably be used in a combination of three in order to repair the defect to CFTR. Scientists are as yet uncertain how these substances work, but a better understanding is vital in order to optimise the therapy.

New light on light therapy

Andries Meijerink (UU), with Kees Hummelen (RUG) and Marie Anne van de Haar (Seaborough Life Science)

In the field of dermatology, light therapy is a treatment that has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis. This form of therapy provides good treatment results, with almost no side effects.

At the moment, however, treating physicians and/or patients often prefer not to use light therapy, mainly because the treatments are time-consuming and difficult to administer at home. The purpose of this project is to make light therapy more effective, safer and less expensive through the development of new nanomaterials that patients can use at home.


LIFT stands for ‘Launchpad for Innovative Future Technology’, and is one of the public-private partnership projects by NWO’s Chemistry Innovation Fund. The project grants range from 130,000 to 300,000 Euros, of which 1/4 is provided by the companies involved. A total of seven projects have been honoured with subsidies.


CHIPP is one of the public-private partnership projects financed by the NWO domain Exact Sciences and Physics as part of the Chemistry Innovation Fund. CHIPP is intended for public-private partnerships between at least one company and two knowledge institutions. NWO and the business partners each contribute half of the funding for CHIPP projects.  A total of two projects have been honoured with subsidies.