RVB Translational Medicine Book

UMCUTRECHT

Translational

Medicine

at the University

Medical Center

Utrecht


Translational Medicine

… is the process of translating research outcomes to tangible products that

can be used in clinical practice;

… also works the other way around: research questions should arise from

clinical care and unmet medical needs;

… is teamwork, and requires collaboration between researchers, clinicians,

patient organizations, and industry;

… unites the knowledge of these different fields and experts to increase the

societal relevance of research and ultimately improve patient care.

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Translational Medicine at the University Medical Center Utrecht

Berent Prakken

Vice-dean for Education, UMC Utrecht, and Co-founder of the Eureka Institute

One day, my friend and colleague Salvo Albani and

I realized how many mistakes we had made while

trying to develop immunotherapy. We committed

ourselves to prevent young scientists from making the

same mistakes. This started a long and unforeseen

journey. We met like-minded people along this

journey, and together we started the Eureka Institute.

The aim of Eureka is to create a community of

Translational Medicine professionals to increase the

impact of science on patients. The initial

accomplishment of Eureka was our certificate course,

an international course in worldwide Translational

Medicine that was first offered in 2009.

The mission of the University Medical Center Utrecht

(UMC Utrecht) is to generate, evaluate, share and apply

knowledge about health, illness, and care for the

benefit of patients and society. This is in line with the

vision and ambitions of Eureka. From that perspective,

it was no surprise that UMC Utrecht joined

Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School

in becoming the first university partners of Eureka.

Today, Translational Medicine is blooming at

UMC Utrecht, in alignment with the philosophy of

Science in Transition. In this book, you will find

examples of that. But above all, it gives voice to

scientific role models, most of whom are Eureka

alumni. They explain what Translational Medicine

means to them, and how it is incorporated in their daily

work. They share their expectations and hopes for the

future. May their words convince you that we can

increase the impact of biomedical research, and that

we indeed can, and will, make good on our promise of

improving patient’s lives!

www.umcutrecht.nl/translationalmedicine

www.eurekainstitute.org

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Science in Transition

Frank Miedema

Dean and Vice-Chairman of the Board, UMC Utrecht, and Co-founder of Science in Transition

With the promise of new treatments and therapies,

Translational Medicine is at the heart of biomedical

research. But for a host of reasons, it may not always

get the appreciation it deserves. With the Science in

Transition initiative, which is rooted in UMC Utrecht

and started in 2013, we aim to shed light on the

incentive and reward system in biomedical science.

We hope to push researchers to value efforts that bring

results from the laboratory into clinical practice over

publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Science in Transition is one voice in a choir. Many

analyses strongly suggest that current incentives,

combined with hyper-competition for limited funds,

contribute to the reproducibility crisis; to waste in

research; and to poor translation of promising findings

to clinical application. The inescapable conclusion is

that we need new rewards and incentives for scientists,

and that we should involve societal stakeholders in

setting the research agenda. This conclusion and

possible solution is echoed in the European Union’s

‘Open Science’ agenda for science policy.

UMC Utrecht takes its responsibility and intends to

cultivate first-rate biomedical research and innovation.

With Science in Transition, we make a plea for science

that produces socially robust knowledge. We want to

produce knowledge that answers relevant questions

and benefits society. In the field of medicine, this

means we have to make research ‘translational’.

That is why I fully support Eureka and the efforts at

UMC Utrecht to improve and expand Translational

Medicine.

www.scienceintransition.nl

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“In my research, I collaborate with fundamental researchers, clinical researchers,

and with other disciplines – for example with people who build bridges between

research, clinical practice and society.”

Sanne Nijhof

Pediatrician and Postdoctoral Researcher

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“Wietse Kuis is my role model, because he has a brilliant mind, is honest, is engaged

with what he does, feels for his patients, and wants to dive into details in the lab to

understand everything he sees in his patients.”

Joost Swart

Pediatric Rheumatologist and Immunologist

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10 Translational Medicine


“The main problem is an increased gap between the amount

of data that we generate in research and the ability to apply

it into clinical practice, in a meaningful and impactful way.”

Salvatore Albani

Director of Translational Immunology Institute, Professor, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School

Singapore, Co-founder of the Eureka Institute for Translational Medicine

“With our broad scope, we try to cover the whole

gradient of Translational Medicine, ranging from

molecular biology to new products. This is very rare to

find. The course offered by Eureka differs from most

programs because of the international setting, and the

way it is adapted to promote critical thinking and

create awareness.” Most of all, Salvatore Albani wants

to emphasize that Eureka is more than a program.

“It establishes collaborations, it creates an international

network. One could talk about the individual

achievements, but Eureka is all about a group quest.

In my opinion, the main problem in the medical world

is an increased gap between the amount of data that

we generate in research and the ability to apply it into

clinical practice, in a meaningful and impactful way,”

Salvatore explains. That is the reason why Salvatore

and his colleagues founded the Eureka Institute: “to

contribute to the growth of Translational Medicine in

a way that is directly impactful to patients.”

www.eurekainstitute.org

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12 Translational Medicine


“I am very proud to be building the infrastructure, setting up the network, and

obtaining the funding to study several diseases that have frustrated me in the clinic.

I hope to provide better answers and therefore better treatments and guidance in

the near future.”

Michiel Schreuder

Pediatric Nephrologist, Radboud University Medical Center, Amalia Children’s Hospital, Nijmegen

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“I am most proud of having initiated and continued to build the Scientific Alliance

between the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital and Nutricia Research, with a focus on

immune development and nutrition.”

Belinda van ‘t Land

Affiliated Senior Scientist

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“The future of Translational Medicine will be especially

bright if we can direct our combined efforts towards

diseases with a large burden in difficult-to-reach

populations around the world.”

Joyce Browne, Assistant Professor, Global Health

Lilly Verhagen, Postdoctoral Researcher and Pediatric Resident, Global Health

Translational Medicine is a continuous process in which

you try to solve a problem in a lab setting, and then

translate that back to your patients. We see whether it

works, and go through the whole routine again until we

reach clinical impact, rather than using a one-step bench

to bedside translation.” In Lilly’s case, the focus is on

respiratory tract infections and vaccination in global

pediatric risk groups. These patients could be at risk

because they live in a setting with low resources, or it

could be a group of patients in The Netherlands with

immune deficiencies - with an immune system that fails to

properly protect against infections. “For me, one of the

challenges is to tailor our vaccination strategies to the

specific risk groups across the world, rather than the

one-size-fits-all approach that we currently take:

embracing rather than masking differences between

populations. Joyce adds, ”I made the decision to focus on

Global Health education and research. I want to focus on

areas where the burden is high, and where I feel I can add

the most value and impact with what I do. For

Translational Medicine, this means thinking about how we

can make innovations available at the bedside of patients

all over the world. One of my research projects focuses on

a ‘poly pill’, a pill that combines aspirin and calcium to

prevent hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. This is one

of the major killers of mothers and babies in the world. I

set up the project to develop this pill for Low and Middle

Income Countries. But at the moment, I am actually

preparing a clinical trial in the Netherlands, using the same

pill for Dutch women.” Both Lilly and Joyce agree that

Global Health and Translational Medicine are related. “I

would say that addressing global health issues requires

the same methods and techniques in all fields and

settings, plus some context-specific logistical challenges”,

says Lilly. “You need to cross political, administrative,

linguistic and cultural boundaries to address the patient’s

most relevant questions. You need to look beyond the

borders of your country,” adds Joyce.

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18 Translational Medicine


Translational Medicine requires teams consisting of clinicians and fundamental

researchers, and aims to translate findings with the help of all team members to

ensure that patients can benefit.”

Sylvia Brugman

Assistant Professor,

Cell Biology and Immunology Group, Wageningen University

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“I am most proud of having created an organoid-based screening platform that uses

patient-specific organoids as models of disease.”

Sabine Middendorp

Associate Professor, Pediatric Gastroenterology

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“In my heart I am still a basic scientist, but it is amazing what

kind of impact you can have on peoples’ lives.”

Jeffrey Beekman

Group Leader, Translational Research on Cystic Fibrosis, UMC Utrecht

Recently, Jeffrey Beekman was one of the speakers at

the largest conference on Cystic Fibrosis (CF) in the

United States. Many parents of children with CF were

present. “The vibe at this conference gave me goose

bumps. I could feel the response to our research when

everyone saw our experiments for the first time. When

I talked to the parents afterwards, I learned that our

research really had a large impact. It still gives me

goose bumps.”

Jeffrey has not always worked in the field of

Translational Medicine. “As a basic scientist, you focus

on scientific concepts and questions. Basic research is

obviously needed, but I wanted to have more impact

on patients’ lives. That is why I switched to the field of

CF.” Jeffrey now collaborates with scientists from

different disciplinary backgrounds. His team designed

a test focussing on stem cells that could potentially be

used for CF treatment. ”Together with the CF patient

organisation we co-fund a program to enable

individualized therapy for CF. What I like about having

direct patient involvement: they keep you oriented on

the impact of research for the patient. In the end, with

our research we provide a service for the community.

In my heart I am still a basic scientist, but it is amazing

what kind of impact you can have on peoples’ lives.

You hope and dream about what you may achieve, but

this time it turned out to be even better in real life.”

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24 Translational Medicine


“I hope the future of Translational Medicine will be bright and based on teamwork.

In my view, the only way to succeed is to bring together people who have the

creativity and freedom to think outside the box.”

Hester den Ruijter

Associate Professor, Experimental Cardiology

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“The solution to major medical problems can often only be solved by a Translational

Medicine approach.”

Louis Bont

Pediatrician and Researcher

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Education and Research on Translational Medicine

at UMC Utrecht

Translational Medicine is a complex and

interdisciplinary field. Clinicians, researchers, patients,

and industry all need to be involved to ask research

questions that are clinically relevant and translate

research outcomes to tangible products at the bedside.

Translational scientists, who are either PhDs with an

interest in clinical research or clinician-scientists, need

to obtain a broad range of skills to navigate the

translational pathway. They need to learn how to work

effectively in interdisciplinary teams and communicate

with a broad range of stakeholders. Clinician-scientists

have a dual role, as they are trained in both research

and clinical practice, and can therefore play an

important role in further closing the gap between

research and clinical practice.

UMC Utrecht invests in educating the next generation

of translational scientists and in research to further

improve training and career pathways for translational

scientists. This is necessary, as becoming a successful

translational scientist or clinician-scientist is

challenging. The competitive funding system, the

pressure to publish, and the lack of training and career

pathways make this a challenge .

The educational strategy of UMC Utrecht shows that

educating translational professionals is of high

importance for UMC Utrecht. This is illustrated by its

focus on inter-professional education, strengthening

the connection with patients, improving patient

participation in education, and creating awareness of

the societal impact of research.

The Selective Utrecht Medical Master (SUMMA) is a

concrete example of this, as it focuses on the training

of clinician-scientists. The four-year SUMMA program is

for students with a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical or

life sciences, and combines a medical degree with a

degree in clinical science. After four years, SUMMA

graduates are prepared for a career that combines

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clinical practice with research activities. These

graduates can play an important role in the translation

of research outcomes to patient care.

UMC Utrecht also participates in further improving and

developing the education of translational scientists

and clinician-scientists in an international context.

Crucial for this development is the partnership with

the Eureka Institute. Together with Eureka, the

UMC Utrecht embarked on several initiatives.

In collaboration with University College London,

University of Granada, Ghent University and Nutricia

Research, UMC Utrecht successfully applied for a

European Erasmus+ grant that resulted in the

‘PATHWAY project’. The objectives of this project are to

create efficient and sustainable career pathways for

clinician-scientists, to integrate research and clinical

components in the training of clinician-scientists, and

to generate impact by raising awareness amongst

stakeholders throughout Europe. Altogether, this

contributes to an overall aim to bridge the gap

between bench and bedside by training clinicianscientists

for the academic and industrial workforce.

In 2015, UMC Utrecht and the University of Toronto

started an international research collaboration to

support the clinician-scientist workforce. Research on

the professional identity development, training, and

career pathways of clinician-scientists is needed, as this

workforce is both ageing and declining. The aim is to

investigate how clinician-scientists develop their

professional identity around their dual roles in both

clinical practice and research, and how training and

career pathways should improve to support

early-career clinician-scientists. These studies are

performed within the Eureka Network. The Julius

Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care also

performs research on general practitioners who

become clinician-scientists, because a need for an

increasing number of professionals with a research

degree has also been identified within primary care.

Together, the educational and research activities that

take place within UMC Utrecht aim to improve the

education and career support for these professionals,

who are vital players in the field of Translational

Medicine.

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32 Translational Medicine


“I am most proud of having contributed to the training and mentoring of young

professionals and scientists, each with their own career paths. They are going to

make the difference.”

Femke van Wijk

Associate Professor

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“At the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, continuous improvement in care for these

small and very vulnerable human beings is mandatory to improve long-term

outcome and quality of life. Historically, this population has been underrepresented

in basic science and therapeutic research. I feel a responsibility to make research on

neonates possible in the best clinical way.”

Sanne Hoeks

Pediatrician and Neonatologist

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“There is a bright idea or healthcare innovation and a firstin-man

study has been done, so it is beautifully translated

from the lab to human. But then, boom, still nobody knows

whether it works or has impact in daily medical practice.”

Carl Moons

Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care

“From my perspective, we can only speak of

Translational Medicine when research results are

applicable to the end-users. These end-users would

include patients or care providers, and not only

research going from the bench to the first-in-man

studies.” For Carl it is obvious, “Medical science is often

too discovery-driven. It is sexy to discover things or

develop innovations, but not to validate or test these

discoveries in the context for which the innovation is

eventually to be applied. And that is what is needed

before taking wide scale implementation of any

innovation into practice. I used to be the same, in a

way. We finished a phase 3 trial, described it in a

beautiful paper, published it in a high impact journal

and went on with the next trial. What I should have

done is pick up the result, further explain it where

needed, and bring it to the relevant stakeholders to

make sure it entered the clinical guidelines.”

Carl continues, “To me, Translational Medicine often

seems less translational than it should be. Researchers

and research teams often stop too early. From the start

of the idea or conception of the innovation, we should

work much more in multidisciplinary teams. This is

needed in the entire chain to bring the idea into daily

practice. Then Translational Medicine will be fully

translational, and much more effective and impactful.

It moves from discovery- and technology-driven to

impact- and fit-for-purpose-driven. If you talk about

decision support systems, for example, the end-users

are you and I, and actually the whole population.

Developing a decision support system or some

e-health app is one thing, but evaluating whether it

indeed has true impact on the health of the actual

end-users in the intended context of the app is

something else.”

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38 Translational Medicine


“In my research, I try to keep in mind how patients can benefit from the results.

I find this hard to accomplish, due to the fact that most research findings represent

small steps ahead and need further research and optimizations before they can be

really applied in daily clinical practice.”

Pieter van Dijkhuizen

PhD student, Pediatric Rheumatology

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“I would call someone a translational scientist when the main objective of their

research is to cross the ‘Valley of Death’ between promising pre-clinical results and

making the drug or device part of daily clinical practice.”

Roel Deckers

Assistant professor, Imaging Division

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“At the UMC Utrecht, people talk about how the translational

pathway works and if we need to challenge that paradigm.

That is part of the uniqueness of the UMC Utrecht.”

Norman Rosenblum

Staff Nephrologist at The Hospital for Sick Children, and Senior Scientist Developmental

& Stem Cell Biology, University of Toronto

Asked about the relevance of Translational Medicine,

Norman Rosenblum answers, ”Medicine exists today at

a time where there is potential to bring a variety of

discoveries to the clinical context and to wider

populations. Populations of not necessarily sick people,

but even healthy people for whom we seek to optimize

health. There is tremendous potential to do this

because of real revolutions in the biological sciences

over the last 30 years, as well as in information

technology, population health sciences, and artificial

intelligence. The old way of thinking was about

bringing discoveries to the market, but we now focus

on technology and patient interfaces, information, and

healthcare models. The patient has become a real

partner, whereas before the patient was a target.”

“The University of Toronto plays a big role in the field

of Translational Medicine as a top-20 university in Life

Sciences and top-3 university in pediatrics,” Norman

explains. “But the UMC Utrecht does not just talk about

Translational Medicine; it is trying to promote it as a

way for people to engage in their science and in the

application of their science. They are asking about

patient’s priorities, asking about waste in science.

From the Dean down, they are willing to do it.”

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44 Translational Medicine


“I am most proud of having brought together different people into a

multidisciplinary group. All had something to bring to the table, and the

outcome will be bigger than all the individual input.”

Joris van Montfrans

Pediatrician

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“I would call myself a clinician-scientist because I am translating clinical findings

into new research projects, and translating lab findings into potential clinical

applications. I do this within my own field of interest as well as in the projects of my

colleagues or researchers that I meet.”

Marije Bartels

Pediatric Hematologist

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UMC Utrecht Eureka Summer Course

on Translational Medicine

Participating in the Eureka/UMC Utrecht Summer

Course on Translational Medicine is like entering a

bubble. With a group of about 30 students and almost

as many faculty members, you go through an intense

week with a surprising mix of presentation formats and

content, of social and scientific activities, and of regular

and unorthodox teaching methods.

And you are all in it together.

The first thing you will notice is that the many

inconvenient truths of the scientific enterprise are

openly discussed. This reflects the fact that the

UMC Utrecht is home to Science in Transition, an

initiative that criticizes how incentives and rewards

shape the quality and relevance of science.

At the same time, inside the bubble you will find all the

tools and knowledge to make a positive difference as a

translational researcher. The dedicated faculty has an

outstanding reputation as both translational scientists

and as teachers. The curriculum is developed with the

Eureka Institute, which has a decade of experience in

Translational Medicine.

But the most important part, of course, is your fellow

travelers inside the bubble. They are young and

motivated researchers from around the globe that

meet each other in Utrecht with a common belief:

that biomedical research can improve our lives, and

that they can add to that.

The inspiration and energy are contagious, and long

after leaving the bubble you will feel the effects of the

one-week course. You will no longer take ‘how science

works’ for granted. You will feel empowered to make a

change by reaching out to colleagues, peers and

stakeholders, and together you will give biomedical

research the impact that it should have.

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UMC Utrecht Eureka Summer Course

on Translational Medicine

Edition 2016

“I am particularly impressed by the diversity of the groups and the fact that we will face the same

situation when we would practice Translational Medicine. Also, I learned a lot about how to cope with

challenges and hurdles. I will spread the concept of Translational Medicine in my home institution by

writing an article in local journals.”

Nikmah S Idris, Pulmonary Hypertension Clinical Fellow, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Paediatric

Cardiology, Staff University of Indonesia.

Alumna of the Summer Course, 2016 edition

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UMC Utrecht Eureka Summer Course

on Translational Medicine

Edition 2017

“There are many examples of individuals and institutions who take the initiative to close the gap between research

and clinical practice. However, it is impossible for individual institutions to change the system as a whole. During the

summer school on Translational Medicine we came up with the idea of an ‘Impact Index’: a label that indicates what

institutions already do to close the research-practice gap.

This index would have two goals: to create transparency on ‘best-practices’ of institutions that already invest in

improving the quality of research and translating research outcomes to the patient, and to encourage institutions

that have fallen behind to invest in improving the quality of research, using the

best-practices available.”

Anneke Monninkhof, Nienke de Graeff, and

Margot Weggemans

Alumni of the Summer Course, 2017 edition

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54 Translational Medicine


“I call myself a translational scientist because I directly implement the findings from

our nephrogenetics research line to diagnostics, thereby translating research results

to medical care.”

Kirsten Renkema

Assistant Professor, Genetics

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“I am proud of the improved health care in the UMC Utrecht due to better

collaboration in professional care teams and more focus on the patient perspective.”

Petra Baarendse

Senior Expert / Architect

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“From the beginning to the end, it should be about patients.

So they need to be involved in promising research as often

and as soon as possible.”

Ingrid Lether

Manager of Research and Innovation at Reumafonds (arthritis patient organization and research funder)

“Our organization tries to involve patients in the

different phases of research. Patients are part of our

scientific advisory board. They look at the feasibility

and relevance of the proposals. If the result of a

proposal will not change clinical practice, it will not

benefit them. A proposal like that may be scientifically

interesting, but the patients tell us what is really

important. We also encourage researchers to set up

their own groups of patients to help them draft

relevant research questions. A patient can tell the

researcher what is bothering him or her most, for

example. This is of course the preferred option:

involvement of patients before a proposal is written.

We can also ask patients to bring in their perspectives

at meetings with the government and health insurance

companies, to inform our research. From the beginning

to the end, it should be about the patients. So they

need to be involved in promising research as often and

as soon as possible,” Ingrid explains.

In the Netherlands, arthritis researchers from Utrecht

enjoy a good reputation, Ingrid thinks. “There is a

concentration of knowledge about arthritis at Utrecht

University and the University Medical Center. Utrecht

could also be a leader when it comes to spinning off

small companies in this field.” Ingrid says

enthusiastically, “In my opinion, one of the main

achievements of our charity in relation to Translational

Medicine is that we realized that we need these small

companies to bring new treatments to the market.”

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60 Translational Medicine


“In the future, Translational Medicine will become more and more important – but in

our efforts to connect with the clinic we will have to be careful not to lose touch with

basic scientists.”

Caroline Lindemans

Pediatric Immunologist, and Bone Marrow Transplantation Specialist

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“My research and hypotheses are always driven by patients’ needs, and aim to

increase awareness of problems within certain areas of health care. They don’t

always directly or immediately impact patient care, but in my opinion that is okay if

the research still supports patients’ needs or draws attention to healthcare areas in

need of change and innovation. In the long term, we will see the impact of this

research.”

Aisha Gohar

PhD Student

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Translational Medicine is not the Holy Grail,

but it really makes science better.”

Jorg van Loosdregt, Translational Immunology Researcher, Group Leader of the van Loosdregt/Vastert group

Bas Vastert, Pediatric Rheumatologist and Researcher, Group Leader of the van Loosdregt/Vastert group

“Working together with Bas, a pediatrician, makes my

work more relevant and more fun”, says Jorg, a basic

researcher. “As a fundamental scientist, I learn a lot from

Bas about disease, disease mechanisms, how patients

feel, and what they find important. This applies to all

members of our research group: we learn a lot from each

other. We perform clinical trials based on fundamental

research we did in the lab, and that is just one example of

many tangible results of our collaboration.”

Bas continues, “I need this environment of smart

scientists, with the focus and time to work on clinically

relevant problems. Science gets better when people are

continually present for brainstorming and problem

solving. We both explicitly opted for Translational

Medicine. To us, it is the missing link to make science

relevant. Translational Medicine is not the Holy Grail, but

it really makes sciences better.” The van Loosdregt/

Vastert lab is engaged in clinical science, but also in

fundamental science. Since these are the two extremes,

everything in between is also present in the group.

Jorg explains, “We do super-fundamental DNA and RNA

research, and we try to understand the biology of

disease.” Bas adds, “But it all has to be translatable, it has

to have impact on our patients. It is unrealistic to think

that we can develop a new drug in a couple of years, but

we can make smarter use of existing drugs, combine

drugs in different ways, or put the right drugs in the right

order for our patients. Embedding our efforts in a bigger

organization or context is very important. We cannot do

this alone in our group; we need local support. We also

need to work with powerful partners, so that we have

sufficient budget and freedom to do our work.

We definitely see a transition here at the University

Medical Center Utrecht in favor of Translational Medicine,

but there is a long road ahead of us.” For Bas and Jorg it is

obvious that working as a team has a clear advantage,

and that patients benefit from this collaboration. They

joke, “We can’t turn back anymore.” But more seriously,

they add, “We really believe in Translational Medicine and

that it will improve patient care.”

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“My role model is Hans Clevers. He is a pioneering scientist with a great worldwide

scientific and societal impact due to his ground-breaking discoveries. Organoid

technology will revolutionize personalized and Translational Medicine.”

Antoni Hendrickx

Senior scientist, Hubrecht Organoid Technology

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“I foresee that precision medicine will become more important with regards to

diagnosis and treatment of diseases, with Translational Medicine being at the

forefront of these developments.”

Marne Hagemeijer

Postdoctoral Researcher

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“Academia and industry need to work together to bring

new concepts to the market.”

Johan Garssen

Director Platform Immunology at Nutricia Research, and Professor of Immunopharmacology at

Utrecht University

“At Nutricia, the majority of my work focuses on

translatability, to develop things that can directly help

patients. It is always in the back of my mind: can I

translate this into something that can be used by

patients 10 years from now? I think that both academia

and companies like Nutricia have changed over the last

years. Let’s be honest, ten years ago we would just look

at your CV and ask how many publications you have as

a scientist and what the impact factor is. This is still

important, but now there is another aspect: translating

science into something that can help patients and

prevent diseases.”

“I am in a unique position since 2005, having a parttime

position with both Nutricia and the Faculty of

Science of Utrecht University,“ says Johan when he talks

about his two jobs. “I do fundamental work on immune

regulation at the university which is not directly

translatable, but I combine it with experiments that will

hopefully lead to new drugs, medical food, or food for

pregnant women or babies.” He concludes, “You need

academia for the basic knowledge, and you need

industry to translate the scientific concept into the

actual drug or nutritional product or vaccine. Academia

and industry need to work together to bring new

concepts to the market.”

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“My role model is Leonard Cohen: There is a crack in everything,

that is where the light gets in.”

Gijs van Haaften

Associate Professor, Group Leader

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“Translating the needs and languages of one discipline to another is truly

challenging, but it is pivotal in order to share knowledge and to come to

novel solutions.”

Christiaan Vinkers

Psychiatrist

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“My involvement with Apollo Society makes me think critically

about the topics of my projects and what the contribution is to

the health of patients”

Gautam Kok and Remi Stevelink, Utrecht University students, and Board members of Apollo Society Utrecht

Apollo Society is an active international network of

likeminded students with an interest in Translational

Medicine. It was founded in 2014 by four medical students

from Utrecht. Gautam explains, “There was a lack of

courses on Translational Medicine in our curriculum so we

decided to teach ourselves. We gather once a month to

discuss topics related to Translational Medicine. These

discussions tend to be very lively. Everyone chooses a

topic, and we look at these topics from multiple

perspectives, including medical, ethical and political

points of view.” Following the example of Utrecht, the

University of Toronto started an Apollo group as well.

“We are currently writing an article in collaboration with

the Apollo group in Toronto on Translational Medicine

about the role of students in promoting Translational

Medicine globally. In the future, we want to expand Apollo

to different hubs: the universities of Miami and Arizona,

and University College London.” Why is Translational

Medicine important to them? Gautam reflects, “I was

doing lab research, trying different kinds of drugs on cell

lines. I was tucked away somewhere in a lab and did not

know what I was doing exactly and what I was doing it for.

That was the moment when I decided to become a doctor

as well, and combine research with patient care.” Remi

says, “Actually, a similar story applies to me. I found out

that many researchers, including myself, had never met a

patient. I did research on autism, but I had never met

someone with autism. And I think my professor had never

met any patient with autism either. I realised that this was

not the way to go forward and I decided to study

medicine as well as doing research to actually make a

difference on the health of patients.” Remi continues,

“My involvement in Apollo makes me think critically about

the reasons for choosing a particular project and the

contribution to health in general. Currently, I am doing

research on epilepsy. I use genetics to predict treatment

outcomes, eventually leading to personalised medicine.

The parents of my epilepsy patients fund my research.

Since the parents are involved in the questions I try to

answer, I actually produce something that is relevant to

them. That keeps me motivated.”

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“My role model is embodied in several different people, both clinician-scientists and

clinicians, whom I encountered during my career so far. They are my role models

because of their integrity, perseverance, passion for their work, belief in what they

do, and belief in the people they do their work with.”

Maja Bulatović Ćalasan

Internal Medicine Resident

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Translational Medicine is part of my every day work. I work together with clinicians

and basic scientists, and have numerous collaborations with private partners,

all aiming to improve diagnosis and care by making use of translational research.”

Imo Hoefer

Associate Professor, Head of Central Biobank

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“The field of medicine is changing very fast. It is difficult

to prepare our current students for future challenges, and

we need students who are able to collaborate with people

from different backgrounds to kickstart innovation.”

Annet van Royen-Kerkhof

Pediatrician, Associate Professor, Program Director of Selective Utrecht Medical Master (SUMMA)

Annet van Royen-Kerkhof speaks enthusiastically about

SUMMA, the four-year Medical Master Programme at

the University Medical Center Utrecht. “The small scale

of the program guarantees close interaction with the

students. Our students already have a Bachelor degree

in a field related to Life Sciences, so they are able to

challenge you as a teacher and add different

perspectives to the discussion.

In my opinion, the field of medicine is changing very

fast. It is difficult to prepare our current students for

future challenges, but what we do know is that we

need students who are able to interact and collaborate

with people from different backgrounds. For example

with technicians, since many innovations start at the

interface of medicine and technique.

In an ideal world, our SUMMA students would

collaborate with students from other master programs

on real life problems that cannot be solved by a single

research group. This would contribute to my main aim:

to teach students to think outside the box, to be

creative, and not to be hampered by existing

structures.”

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“I feel that frequent inspiration by clinical problems or patients is the most

important aspect of Translational Medicine. After all, both fundamental and clinical

scientists can perform Translational Medicine, but their orientation matters:

are they inspired by patients and their problems, or do they merely wish to solve

their own experimental problems?”

Henk Schipper

Pediatric Cardiology Fellow

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“My drive in doing translational science is to understand the molecular mechanisms

of disease pathogenesis in the liver and gastrointestinal tract. Together with

partners, such as clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, and patient representatives,

I aim to translate this knowledge into therapy or diagnostic tools for the benefit of

human health.”

Saskia van Mil

Associate Professor, and Group Leader at Center for Molecular Medicine

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“We have one research line from the bed of the patient

to the molecules in the lab. It is not a one-way street:

it is dynamic and it goes back and forth.”

Jeroen Pasterkamp

Professor of Translational Neuroscience, Director of MIND Facility, and Chair of Strategic Research

Program Brain

The lab of Jeroen Pasterkamp is translational in several

different ways. He explains, “First of all, we try to

understand how the brain normally develops and

works, from a basic research perspective. We use the

normal situation as a standard, and then compare it to

the injured or diseased situation. Another strategy is to

use genetic information, brain resection material, or

cultured human neurons from patients as a starting

point. We can then use this to identify the cellular and

molecular mechanisms that are affected in different

diseases.”

Translational Medicine in the field of neurosciences is

different from other fields, because the nervous system

is a complex organ and we do not know much about it.

We are trying to fix the patient’s problem, but at the

same time we are trying to understand how the brain

works,” Jeroen explains.

The enthusiastic professor is proud of having achieved

an efficient method to work with the clinic for studying

both motor neuron disease and epilepsy. “For example,

we have one research line in studying ALS, or

amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, that extends from the bed

of the patient to the molecules we study in the lab. It is

not a one-way street: it is dynamic, it goes back and

forth. And, we collaborate with the entire world.”

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“What I am proud of is that, together with my research group, we came up with the

“idea” of radioactive holmium microspheres as a possible treatment of liver tumors

into a real product for treatment of liver tumors, available for all patients in

Europe.”

Frank Nijsen

Associate Professor

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“We live in a very exciting time with spectacular technological possibilities,

including next generation sequencing, gene editing, stem cell (organoid) in vitro

modelling, transcriptomics, metabolomics, large compound screens... Information

technology enables world wide access to international expertise and patient

sharing. If embedded in a collaborative, patient-oriented, creative, inspiring and

critical environment, we should be able to raise translational medicine to

great heights!

Sabine Fuchs

Pediatrician in Metabolic Diseases with dedicated research time

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Colophon

Final Editing

Maggy Ovaa

Texts

Rinze Benedictus, Sandra Genet, Margot Weggemans

Printed by

De Bondt grafimedia

Sponsored by

K.F. Hein Fonds

With the support of / thanks to:

Salvatore Albani, Petra Baarendse, Marije Bartels, Jeffrey Beekman,

Louis Bont, Joyce Browne, Sylvia Brugman, Maja Bulatovic-Calasan,

Roel Deckers, Pieter van Dijkhuizen, Sabine Fuchs, Johan Garssen,

Aisha Gohar, Gijs van Haaften, Marne Hagemeijer, Antoni Hendrickx,

Sanne Hoeks, Imo Hofer, Gautam Kok, Belinda van ‘t Land,

Caroline Lindemans, Ingrid Lether, Jorg van Loosdregt,

Sabine Middendorp, Frank Miedema, Saskia van Mil,

Joris van Montfrans, Carl Moons, Sanne Nijhof, Frank Nijsen,

Jeroen Pasterkamp, Berent Prakken, Kirsten Renkema, Erica Roks,

Norman Rosenblum, Annet Van Royen-Kerkhof , Hester den Ruijter,

Henk Schipper, Michiel Schreuder, Remy Stevelink, Joost Swart,

Bas Vastert, Lilly Verhagen, Christiaan Vinkers, Femke van Wijk

Translations

Alexandra Cloherty

Photography

Thirza Luijten

Lay-out

Barbara Hagoort

Order management

UMC Utrecht, Design & Producties,

Jelle Westerhoff

Tel +31 (0)88 75 662 00

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January 2018


www.umcutrecht.nl/translationalmedicine

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