Research staff

Research staff

The following lists the researchers participating in the BDI programme. Future PhD candidates need to select one of these staff members as their research supervisor. Click on the name to be forwarded to their personal profiles.

The Division of Pharmacology aims at understanding and validating new concepts for disease management via drugs, biologicals and medical food components. Its research strategy follows a molecule-to-man approach in which experimental pharmacological expertise, translational (immuno-)pharmacologicy and systems pharmacological  expertise form a unique bridge between pharmaceutical sciences, biology, medicine and veterinary life sciences. The research programmes of the division focus on studying chronic, immune-related, disorders, such as infections, allergies, chronic kidney disease, obesity and some brain/behaviour disorders. Studies include the use of unique in vitro models, in vivo animal models for disease, transgenic mouse models, proof of concept human studies and finally embedding in multicenter trials. Besides traditional pharma approaches, medical food and/or interactions between medical food and pharma as well as regenerative pharmacology are research programs leading to international recognition and visibility. The group collaborates strongly with the Nutricia research foundation, several industries and universities worldwide, such as MIT, Boston, Yale New Haven, Harvard, NUS and MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science. Moreover, the group has a unique faculty membership in the Eureka institute for translational medicine and is involved in several profit as well as non-profit life sciences organisations such as WHO, WUN, ILSI.

The group’s Chemical Biology approach involves the use of synthetic molecular approaches to the study and modulation of biological processes related to disease. Its Medicinal Chemistry aspects involve the extensive use of organic synthesis with an emphasis on carbohydrate- and peptide- based multivalent and multifunctional medium sized constructs. The biomolecular analysis expertise of the group involves numerous techniques such as NMR, UPLC, and CZE e.g. for biopharmaceutical analyses as well as techniques studying biomolecular interactions such as ITC and SPR, while its cell culture facility runs a variety of relevant bio-assays. Pieters et al. synthesise molecules that mimic biomacromolecules to interfere with protein-protein and protein-carbohydrate interactions. Furthermore epigenetic studies are a focal area which combines synthetic modifications of protein sequences with microarray analysis. The group represents the Utrecht University synthesis facility and has numerous collaborations within Utrecht Life Sciences and with national and international partners.

The research of the Division of Pharmaceutics is focussed on the delivery and targeting of drugs, by integrating Chemistry, Formulation, Biopharmaceutics and Cell Biology. Delivery vehicles based on lipids, peptides and biodegradable polymers for small drugs as well as biopharmaceuticals such as peptides, pharmaceutical proteins and nucleic acids to treat chronic and life threatening diseases are designed and evaluated in preclinical models. Their polymers are also used as biomaterials e.g. for the design of scaffolds for tissue regeneration.

The group collaborates with imaging and nuclear groups in the Utrecht Life Sciences. Some of the delivery vehicles initiated by this Division have undergone clinical trials. Its former leader, Prof. Crommelin, started Octoplus as a spin-off and had a leading role in the Top Institute Pharma, the Innovative Medicines Initiative and the International Federation of Pharmacy. The group actively participates in several international collaborations and partnerships to advance the drug delivery field which should in the long run lead to better (and sometimes cheaper) medicines. The group has a leading role in setting up an international centre of excellence based in Utrecht and supported by the WHO to provide expertise in the production and characterisation of biopharmaceuticals for developing countries. In addition, they co-lead the IMI COMPACT consortium (www.compact-research.org), which is a joint venture between 17 academic groups and small enterprises within Europe and 6 global pharmaceutical companies to collectively work on solutions to improve the delivery of biopharmaceuticals within the human body, with a total budget of € 30 million. The group is internationally renowned and their principal investigators are very successful in acquiring personal funding in the Netherlands and Europe.

Researchers in Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics investigate the underlying mechanisms of action and side effects of drugs at the protein level, focusing on alterations in cascades of molecular processes, protein-protein interactions and drug-induced post-translational modifications in healthy versus diseased conditions. The group hosts the Netherlands Proteomics Centre and as such is one of the leading labs in developing and applying novel proteomics core technologies. The group is very successful in attracting national and international collaborations, like the European FP7 program Prime-XS, participation in a prestigious Fondation Leducq grant, the national Cancer Genomics Centre, and the NWO Roadmap “Proteins@Work and the recently granted NWO Gravitation programme Chemical Immunology.

This field of expertise is based on two main research focal points: 1) large cohorts of patients (Pharmacoepidemiology) and 2) the individual patient (Clinical Pharmacology and related bio-analysis). Leufkens et al. perform population studies and combine statistical and mechanistic knowledge. They pioneer the scientific approach of drug regulation and availability in the world, and take a leading role in public health. Beijnen and Schellens work at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), forming an extremely successful translational science team. They add clinical pharmacology and cancer knowledge to the Leufkens group. This group forms a bridge between the Faculty of Science and (pre)Clinical Medicine. The alliance between NKI and UMCU will strengthen our collaboration.