Human milk antibodies, S4L conference sessions, new EM center and more Read online
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Let's get fundamental

Dear Life Scientists, 

When it comes down to it, nearly all the Life Sciences research involves fundamental research. Whether we're using organoids or electron microscopy, stem cells or -omics, the foundations were laid at the molecular level. We're not standing on the shoulders of giants, we're actively working with them every day! 

In this edition of the Life Sciences newsletter we celebrate collaboration and dig deep into fundamental research. We recap the Science for Life conference, explore molecular immunology in mother's milk and discover why a new EM centre is being built. We celebrate our new strategic alliance and announce exciting new funding for our interdisciplinary research. 

Interviews: Kelly Dingess and Marijn van Huis
Two headline stories this edition: one about Human Milk antibodies and one about the new EM center that will open in 2021. Which story do you pick? 
Kelly Dingess on Antibodies in Mothers Milk

"Mother's milk is a wonderful substance," says Kelly DIngess, human milk researcher at the Utrecht Molecular Immunology Hub. She studies the  molecular components found in milk. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted her attention to one component in particular: SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. These potent antibodies may provide a therapeutic for COVID-19 patients.  
Marijn van Huis on the new centre for Electron Microscopy

The Electron Microscopes at Utrecht University are top of the bill. Life Sciences research using EM is increasingly focused on molecular structures. "This type of study requires that the microscopes are extremely steady," explains Marijn van Huis, head of the centre for Electron Microscopy. The iconic new center promises to be steady as a rock and ready for the future of Life Sciences research. 
Experience the S4L online conference again
Can you guess what this graph represents? 

It's the number of connections people made during the Science for Life online conference. Aside from being a conference on fundamental Life Sciences, it was an opportunity for nearly 500 Life Scientists to connect. We hope your connections were fruitful! 

More than 1500 virtual seats were taken at the 18 talks and 30 poster sessions. Curious to see who was there? You can still check out the seats and connect with your peers!

Missed one of the plenary sessions, or want to watch it again? 

Watch the recorded plenary sessions here

In case you missed a specific breakout or poster session, let us know and we'll share what we have. 
Collaborations - Alliances - Grants
The Life Sciences strategic theme is all about collaboration. Whether it is within, between or across disciplines, campuses and science parks, collaboration pays off. 

Yesterday, the strategic alliance between Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and the University Medical Center Utrecht was officially launched by Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven. The alliance 'Challenging Future Generations' promises to foster a truly interdisciplinary research culture between these institutions.    

Life Sciences research in Utrecht is truly interdisciplinary. Substantial grants were recently awarded to research projects at the Utrecht Science Park.

Out of seven projects awarded funding in the €9 million NWO call 'Human Measurement Models', three are projects in the Utrecht Life Sciences: 
  1. UU: Drug Disposition On-a-Chip: a multi-organ-on-chip model tailored to mimic ADME / PK in vitro (consortium leader: Professor Roos Masereeuw)
  2. UMC Utrecht: Bio-Informatic Qualification of Multi-organ disease Models: Evolution Through in vitro and Computational Symbiosis (consortium leader: Dr. Bas van Balkom)
  3. Hubrecht Institute: Validation of Human Cancer Organoids for Drug Development and as Predictive Models for Drug Response (consortium leader: Professor Hans Clevers).
Utrecht also does well on the National Science agenda, with five projects being awarded a total of €24 million. The largest chunk of this funding (€9.9 million) went to the 'Virtual Human Platform' lead by Juliette Legler, professor of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University.

When it comes to spinning out academic inventions, Life Sciences in Utrecht is also well-represented. As an example, TargED Biopharmaceuticals, a biotech spin-off of the University Medical Center Utrecht founded by Associate prof. Coen Maas, PhD, Steven de Maat, PhD, Marc van Moorsel and Kristof Vercruysse recently raised €1.35 million in funding, which will be used to to develop a unique biotechnological drug for rapid degradation of blood clots that obstruct the vasculature.
In the spotlight
A special promotion and a very useful helpdesk. Here we spotlight things we don't want you to miss. 
Studying Embyonic Development in a petri dish

Susanne van den Brink, together with her colleagues at the Hubrecht Institute and University of Cambridge, developed a method with which embryo-like structures can be grown from stem cells in the lab. These ‘gastruloids’ can be used to study both mouse and human embryonic development in a petri dish. Gastruloids enable scientists to investigate birth defects and explore the effects of exposure to certain compounds during pregnancy. Gastruloids do not develop a brain or placenta and are therefore not viable. Van den Brink defended her thesis on the 27th of November. 
Link to the press release
Get animal-free innovation support from the TPI Utrecht Helpdesk

TPI Utrecht is an interdisciplinary group, working on the transition to animal-free innovations. Their helpdesk connects you to experts on this topic.

They answer questions such as:

  • Where can I find grants for exploring my idea for an animal-free innovation?
  • Where can I find the right people to collaborate on my innovative idea?
  • Are there any courses on organs-on-a-chip I could attend?
  • How do I get an overview of animal-free research methods?
  • How do I use augmented reality in teaching?

    Contact the Helpdesk via
TPI Website 
News from the Graduate School of Life Sciences
The Corona pandemic had a major impact on the education for over 1600 master students of the Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS). To prevent Corona driven study delay, the project ‘Redesign Life sciences’ was instigated to offer the students high quality alternatives. This project included digitising nearly 200 master courses, organising an online introduction week for 500 new students and designing creative alternatives for minor research projects. As lab capacity at UU/UMC is still limited and international travelling remains restricted, this is an ongoing focus of the GSLS. This would not be possible without the relentless hard work of teachers, programme coordinators, student representatives and support staff. 

More information and support for GSLS teachers about online education can be found in the GSLS teacher guide.

Please also listen to Radio Life sciences, a series of podcasts for students about the GSLS.
HUBDATES: News from the Life Sciences HUBS
The four Life Sciences hubs aim to bring excellent researchers from different disciplines together
Utrecht Exposome Hub
Health is in many ways related to the physical and social environment. In order to achieve a healthy urban living, a wide range of parameters relating to the environment, physical design and social cohesion and behaviour must be taken into account. How do we proceed when there is an opportunity to redesign an area? In October the Data and Knowledge Hub Health Urban Living – a spin-off of the Utrecht Exposome Hub - organised a webinar series on Healthy Urban Design. 

WATCH THE WEBINAR on healthy urban living here 
Utrecht Platform for Organoid Technology
Organoids are used in many branches of Life Sciences research. At the U-PORT Hub, this research comes together in large interdisciplinary projects.  Over the last months, two projects involving organoid models to study the pathogenesis and treatment of SARS-CoV-2 were awarded major funding. 

The 'Clear COVID-19' project was awarded €1.2 million and the project titled 'Ex vivo models to study tissue-specific features of SARS-CoV-2 infection' received €465K. Both projects are coordinated by Jeffrey Beekman (UMC Utrecht).
Utrecht Molecular Immunology Hub
The diverse field of molecular immunology is brought into focus by the UMI Hub. In our story on human milk antibodies  we explore how a human milk researcher is joining forces with immunology researchers to investigate antibodies. Other researchers in the Hub, such as Suzan Rooijakkers, are investigating how antibodies are best used to treat diseases. In her recent paper she investigates  Antibody treatment against Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Utrecht Advanced in Vitro Models Hub Webinar
The emerging ‘Organ-on-a-Chip’ (OOC) technology provides a resemblance to the human physiology through combining 3D configuration of human-derived cells with microfluidic techniques. In a series of webinars organised by the U-AIM Hub, we explore this topic. The upcoming webinar on December 15 will focus on valorisation: the translation of academic discovery into commercial, marketable products. 

More info and registration 
NEWS from the Faculties
The strategic theme Life Sciences encompasses research at the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the University Medical Center Utrecht. Here we highlight recent research.
12 NOVEMBER 2020
Researchers develop virus live stream to study virus infection

Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute and Utrecht University developed an advanced technique that makes it possible to monitor a virus infection live.

Presentation at S4L conference 

21 NOVEMBER 2020
Mass screening for corona will not allow for reopening of society

"Regular mass screening and isolation does not seem a realistic strategy to fully reopen society,",researchers say.

23 november 2020
Research into microplastics and nanoplastics and chemical substances

Utrecht researchers are involved in four major European Horizon 2020 projects that are all connected with research into substances that are harmful to our health.
8 December 2020   Horizon Europe funding programme kick-off
8 December 2020   Public debate on COVID-19 Vaccins (in Dutch)
10 December 2020 Meet UtrechtINC
10 December 2020 Media training for Scientists (email us for more info)
15 December 2020   2nd U-AIM webinar:
About this newsletter
The Life Sciences newsletter keeps you up-to-date about Life Sciences research in Utrecht, the latest news, events and more. Please feel free to forward our updates to others who might be interested! If you have a project, award, event, news, image - let us help you write it, post it, tweet it.

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