Life Sciences: more relevant than ever Read online
Utrecht University
UMC Utrecht
Dear Life Scientists,  
A thin blanket of snow recently covered Utrecht science park. Much like the COVID-19 pandemic, it muffled sound and made the world outside go quiet. Inside the Life Sciences research facilities however, things were far from quiet. If anything, the pandemic has given life sciences research a new impulse. Whether it's tackling the current virus, working on pandemic preparedness or unraveling the fundamental questions, the hunger for knowledge and problem solving is stronger than ever.

Collaboration within the life sciences leads to rapid societal translation of research and stimulates the cross-pollination of scientific ideas and discoveries. The importance of collaboration is underscored in the strategic plan 2025 of Utrecht University.

We're happy to say the strategic themes play a central role in these plans and look forward to growing the Life Sciences network even further!  

Photo: Jelle Verhoeks
In Depth Stories
These background stories will give you an idea of what goes on within the strategic theme. Today: Fundamental Science in the Science for Life domain and the transition to animal free innovation in the TPI Platform. Want to tell your story next? Let us know
Fundamental Life Sciences: pushing the boundary of the known

Corné Pieterse is the newly appointed chair of the Science for Life domain of the strategic theme Life Sciences. He is a strong advocate for fundamental research, which he represents in the life sciences programme board. 

In his own words: "Without fundamental discoveries, there can be no societal translation of research"
Transitioning to animal-free experimentation: We always look for replacement methods

Arjan Stegeman is a veterinary epidemiologist and Professor of Farm Animal Health at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University. He is part of the Covid-19 Outbreak Management Team Zoonoses. In this interview he gives his view on animal experiments and the possibilities of animal-free innovations, also in light of the corona crisis.
COVID Research Update
COVID-19 has been among us a little over a year now and while the pandemic is far from over, vaccines promise to deliver a way out. While media attentions have shifted from 'understanding the virus' to 'beating the virus', at Utrecht Life Sciences we're still working hard on both of these challenges. Let us sum up some highlights: 

  • At the University Medical Center Utrecht, clinical research helps develop, understand and fine-tune interventions for COVID-19. Follow the research theme 'Infection and Immunity' to stay up to date on developments.
  • At Utrecht University, Pharmacautical scientists conduct a wide range of research on corona vaccines,
  • Cecile van Elst, professor of Immunology recently gave a pop-up lecture (in Dutch) on vaccines. You can watch it here.
  • At the Utrecht Molecular Immunology hub, COVID-19 research is a major driver. In their upcoming webinar on march 4th, researchers will present their latest insights on virus infection acquired by structural and functional virology. 

uU Research on the pandemic
Collaborations & Alliances

Utrecht joins the Institute for human organ and disease model technologies (hDMT)

Advanced disease models are at the heart of Life Sciences research in Utrecht. Technologies, such as organ-on-chip and organoid models, have revolutionized the study of biological systems and are true game changers for interdisciplinary research.
Read the full article here

Utrecht University joins the Coimbra group

The Coimbra Group is an association of long-established European comprehensive, multidisciplinary universities of high international standard, committed to creating special academic and cultural ties in order to promote internationalisation, academic collaboration, excellence in learning and research, and service to society. Read the full article here

In the spotlight
A next chapter in the transition towards animal free innovation and an exciting development at the Utrecht Science Park for rapid COVID testing, here are some developments we don't want you to miss. 
Round Tables about the transition to animal-free innovations

During 2021, the TPI Utrecht group (Transition Programme for Innovation without the use of animals) will visit research groups in online Round Tables, where TPI members will explain the goals and activities of the group, answer questions, ask for feedback, and discuss any issues that emerge.

Contact TPI if you would like to be one of the first groups to join a Round Table, or if  you have any other questions on animal experiments or the transition, in general or involving your own research.
contact TPI
STRIP-1 test robot developed for COVID-19 testing

The Hubrecht Institute and Genmab have developed a new robot, the STRIP-1 – test robot, that can process up to 20,000 samples for SARS-CoV-2 testing per 24 hours. This makes the STRIP-1 much faster than all other systems used to date. 
Read the article 
New course on Responsible Conduct of Research

Being a scientist is complicated. You have to maneuver through the forest of impact factors, complicated collaborations, supervision issues and also find some time for your friends. On top of that, you have to deliver good science. Of course, everyone wants to be a good citizen in science, but how? In March 2021 the graduate school of life sciences (GSLS) will starts its teaching program on “responsible conduct of research” for all its PhD students, that will address many of these issues. Informative lectures will be intermingled with mind-blowing dilemmas, and discussions on the grey areas in science. The course coordinator Dr. Marcel van der Heyden already knows: “this course will make life as a scientist much easier”.
more information
Online Conferences: stay or go?
Last year, the Science for Life conference was held fully online. It was a unique experience for the organizers, the speakers and for the audience. A conference without physical interaction was unsatisfactory for some, while others liked 'shopping science' behind their screens. There are sustainability benefits to not traveling, but do these outweigh the limited social connection? 

However the conference of the future may look, here is a nice piece about our online conference in the UU sustainability monitor: "The academic conference in 2020: only the backstage remains
HUBDATES: News from the Life Sciences HUBS
The four Life Sciences hubs aim to bring excellent researchers from different disciplines together
Utrecht Exposome Hub
On 10 February Utrecht University launches a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course): The Exposome - cracking the science about what makes us sick. Exposome research requires transdisciplinary approaches. The MOOC will be of interest to current and prospective students and researchers in the fields of public health, environmental health, life sciences, clinical medicine, geosciences, humanities, and social and behavioural sciences.


Want a general explaination of the Exposome (in Dutch)?:  watch Roel Vermeulen in 'Dokters van Morgen'
Utrecht Platform for Organoid Technology
Organoids were developed in Utrecht and have led to many unique discoveries over the years, putting Utrecht firmly at the center of this rapidly developing field of research.

Now Utrecht has joined the Institute for human Organ and Disease Model Technologies - a natural step forward
Utrecht Molecular Immunology Hub
Nearly every day coronavirus is in the news, but how do these viruses really infect us? And how can a better understanding of these infections at the molecular level help us to develop treatment strategies? In this seminar, David Veesler from Washington University and colleagues from Utrecht University will present their latest insights on virus infection acquired by structural and functional virology.ment against Streptococcus pneumoniae
Utrecht Advanced in Vitro Models Hub 
Two interesting publications came from the UAIM hub this month.

The first is about 3d-printed kidney tubules

      "Using melt electrowriting (MEW), we fabricated small diameter tubular scaffolds with pores of defined microgeometries that enable the directed growth of kidney cells as only barrier between the inner and outer compartment."

Interesting science by Miguel Castilho (Malda lab), Anne Metje van Genderen and Katja Jansen (Masereeuw lab).  

Also from the UAIM hub: this opinion piece in collaboration with TNO
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.
11 january 2021
What do microplastics do in our body?

On Monday 11 January 2021, the knowledge agenda Microplastics and Health was presented to the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, Stientje van Veldhoven. This knowledge agenda describes the most important knowledge gaps and calls for more research.

1 february 2021
COVID-19 vaccination study in Down syndrome started

Previous research has shown that vaccines often work less well in people with Down syndrome, but people with Down syndrome have not yet taken part in COVID-19 efficacy studies. To investigate this, a large vaccination study is now starting among adults with Down syndrome.
2 february 2021
Highly advanced NMR instrument arrived at Utrecht Science Park

A new nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) instrument: “Sort of MRI that lets you study molecules”

05 Feb 2021 Roel Vermeulen in 'Stream the Professor'
10 Feb 2021  Start Exposome MOOC
18 Feb 2021 Webinar (Dutch) Mammatumoren: wat is waar en wat niet? 
12 March 2021 Start course "Responsible conduct of research"
04 March 2021 Webinar: Molecular Mechanisms of Corona Viruses
14 April 2021 Writing training for Scientists
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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