EMBL-VIB Benelux Alumni Meeting

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Registered participants

The EMBL-VIB Benelux Alumni meeting offered EMBL and VIB staff and alumni as well as their networks and EMBL Council delegates the opportunity to share information in support of life sciences in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and to explore collaboration possibilities.

Over 50 participants attended the meeting - a large number being VIB alumni learning about EMBL for the first time.

EMBL Council delegates included Gerrit van Meer (Netherlands), Josiane Entringer (Luxembourg) and Philippe Desmeth from the Belgium Science Policy Office on behalf of Francois Guissart (Belgium).

Below meet some of the participants:

Vera van Noort (left)

Vera van Noort (left): Associate Professor, KU Leuven.
EMBL: Staff Scientist, Bork Group, Structural and Computational Biology, 2007-2013.
The event
: "I talked about a project with EMBL group leader, Anne-Claude Gavin, that got left in a drawer for a while, and I also made some new contacts. So yes, some collaborative projects were revived and possibilities for new projects created. Catching up with former colleagues was fun, at the same time, I exchanged experiences with other starting professors in the region. I would like to see the EMBL alumni network offer more opportunities for mentoring, especially for female scientists in grant writing and start-ups.”


Jeroen Krijgsveld (left): EMBL Team Leader and Head of Proteomic Core Facility, Genome Biology and Structural and Computational Biology Unit.
My profile
: “I develop novel tools to study the proteomes of cells and tissues.”
My message: “Use the EMBL core facilities to take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies and expertise.”
The event: “I think all speakers testified in a very accessible manner how great it is to be at EMBL. This could be complemented with a science talk by a current EMBL pre- or postdoc from Benelux, to attract new blood to EMBL.”


Katrien Remaut (left): Professor, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium.
EMBL: Visitor, Mattaj Group, Directors Research, 2009.
My profile: “I’m a pharmacist, working as tenure track professor. I’m interested in biophysical aspects of non-viral delivery of nucleic acids such as small interfering RNA, messenger RNA and plasmid DNA to a variety of cell types."
My message: “Research into isolated extracellular or intracellular barriers for nucleic acids delivery has proven useful to optimize delivery systems in relation to a single barrier. The human body, tissues and single cells are however a complex environment, naturally evolved to limit the transfer of foreign nucleic acids such as siRNA, mRNA and plasmid DNA. Therefore, to optimize nucleic acid delivery for specific applications, one should understand and overcome the numerous barriers that add up during the nanoparticle journey from the extracellular environment up to the intracellular target site.”    
The event: “Interacting with scientists that operate in the same or in a different research field and with a different scientific background can be very inspiring. The mix between scientists and policy makers added an extra dimension to the discussions.”   


Gerrit van Meer, Professor, Utrecht University, the Netherlands; EMBL Council Delegate, EMBC President.
EMBL: Staff Scientist, Simons Group, Cell Biology and Biophysics, 1981-1987.
My profile: "For the past five years I have been dean of the Faculty of Science at Utrecht University, after 30 years as an active scientist. I now serve science by facilitating the work of the 1,250 employees and 5,500 students. Together with my colleague deans we try to defend the interests of science in a broader context, notably the EC. In addition, I serve as the Dutch scientific delegate on the EMBL Council, and am president of the EMBC, the mother organization of EMBO.”
My message: “Most of us have been trained to become researchers. However, many of us spend lots of time and effort in teaching, management and science politics. It has been very important for me to acquire these skills without sacrificing my research career. I see two challenges for EMBL and the Benelux: (1) To strengthen ties between the Dutch/Benelux scientists and EMBL - they could benefit much more from what EMBL has to offer. (2) To create career perspectives for scientists at EMBL, and searching for job opportunities back home.”
The event: “It is a great way to meet persons who have a similar background but who now work in very different parts of society, be it research, education, business or politics. The Benelux is small, so the Benelux alumni chapter can be relatively influential, even more so because Brussels is right here. We should further activate and network this community!”


Joep Muijrers (left): Partner, Life Science Partners, Meersen, the Netherlands.
EMBL: Predoc, Stewart Group, Genome Biology, 1997-2001.
My profile: “Life Science Partners (LSP) is one of Europe’s largest and most experienced healthcare investment firms. With a track record going back more than 25 years, we have built an investment house that is dedicated to only one task: seeking, nurturing and growing healthcare investment opportunities with the potential to have a positive impact on society. From our offices in Amsterdam, Munich and Boston, our team aims to back the smartest inventors with the best ideas. While their goal is to develop products and technologies that have a positive impact on society, our objective is to help inventors achieve their goals. The combination of contributing to society and the prospect of associated financial returns is why investors entrust LSP to invest their capital.”
My message: “We should not be too modest: Benelux biotech is in great shape and has performed very well in recent years. It is well-positioned to continue this positive trend.”


Adriano Barbosa (left): Research Associate, University of Luxembourg, Belvaux, Luxembourg.
EMBL: Visitor, Schneider Team, Structural and Computational biology, 2006-2007.
My profile: “I am a post-doctoral research associate at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB). After concluding my PhD, which included a 10 months visit at EMBL-Heidelberg, I was hired as a post-doctoral fellow at the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine where I developed text-mining methods applied to neurodegenerative diseases data mining. Since 2013 I work at the LCSB on the scope of two IMI Projects: eTRIKS and AETIONOMY."
My message: “In the era of Translational Research & Big Data, I believe that the interdisciplinary and multi-center approaches to understand human diseases should be facilitated by the adoptions of standardized systems for data collection, representation and exploration. At LCSB, we contribute with the development and dissemination of powerful easy-to-use systems to permit the integration of a wide-range of data types.”
The event: “Scientists in Benelux should meet on a regular basis to brainstorm together. The EMBL-VIB meeting, which also brought together local investors and policy makers, was the perfect environment for such interactions. In my case, I had the chance to share with several people how the technology adopted by the University of Luxembourg could be useful for their research. It was a great event!”


Bernd-Uwe Jahn: Retired, Senior Advisor.
EMBL: Administrative Director, 2001-2009.
The event: “Needless to say, a remarkable number of business cards were exchanged for the continuation of newly established contacts.”


Did you know?
EMBL has:

  • 97 alumni in the Netherlands; 68 are Dutch.
  • 54 alumni in Belgium; 27 are Belgian.
  • 7 alumni in Luxembourg; 1 is from Luxembourg.