Ulrich Brandt and Martijn Huijnen Willingness to stay rooted in fundamental research (interview)

Bioinformatician Martijn Huijnen and biochemist Ulrich Brandt have been collaborating for several years now. They appreciate each other’s rigorous work ethic as well as creativity. Their collaboration has resulted in a joint ZonMw Top Grant worth € 675,000.

Q1 The ZonMW Top Grant is a joint grant. What are you researching together?

“Mitochondria, as the power plants of the cell, play a central role in disease and health,” Martijn explains. “Mutations in the more than 1,200 genes that control the mitochondria lead to dysfunctioning of the cell and cause mitochondrial diseases. Although these mutations all lead to a disruption of the energy system, there is a large variation in the disease course between patients. Moreover, not all organs are affected to the same extent. Why are certain regions in the brain damaged, while others are not?”
 
“Our research,” Ulrich continues, "focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying this variation. We focus on the proteins and protein complexes within the mitochondria. We aim to develop techniques to determine how the variations in the presence of proteins and their interactions correlate with the severity of the disease. With this knowledge, we can better intervene in the cell to cure mitochondrial diseases.”

Q2 You conduct fundamental research. Did that make getting a grant more difficult?

“This is the second time we applied with this idea. The difference is that we are now focused on a specific mitochondrial disease and how it expresses in different tissues and cell types. That wasn’t the case in the first proposal and was possible by getting Susanne Arnold as a specialist for tissue-specificity aboard,” says Martijn.    
 
“We’re applying a newly developed complexome profiling approach," Ulrich says. "Another goal of this project is to set up a database to store the results. We're going to make this database public. Crucial is that the database only stores data that has been gathered with the complexome profiling technique. Promoting the approach and method will also be a big part of our activities. It also means that researchers everywhere can use the gathered data later.”

Q3 Some people say that besides discipline and knowledge you also need a bit of luck in such a big project. Do you agree?

Both men snort and chuckle. Martijn is the first to answer. "It's as the saying goes: luck favors the prepared. Of course, you have a surprise finding, but you have to know it's interesting. Good scientists expect to see the unexpected."
 
Ulrich agrees, adding, "Bad scientists do an experiment, and when they don't get the results they expected, they say "Oh no, let's try it again." When a good scientist gets unexpected results, he knows he has to look deeper."
 
“That’s what our collaboration is a bit about,” continues Martijn. “As a bioinformatician, I look at the data. You can sometimes let the computer help you systematically, but you can't let it talk for you. Need a biochemist to understand what we see; to think it through."

Q4 How would you describe one another? What makes your collaboration work?

“I would describe Uli[VD1]  as a hardcore German biochemist,” Martijn says. “He’s meticulous and very focused on getting the details right. He’s also stubborn at times and speaks his mind,” Martijn adds, smiling. Ulrich seems satisfied with that description.
 
"Martijn is good at creative science. Problem is many bioinformaticians are set in their ways. Martijn stands out because of his willingness to dive deeply into experimental data. His searches always stay rooted in experiment and reality. He has great focus and perseverance.”
 
“I think Uli is much more rigorous and cautious, whereas I just tend to jump ahead too quickly.”
 
“No, no, I don’t think so. Martijn is rigorous and cautious too. It depends on the field. You tend to be more cautious in your own field because you've learned to be. You've made mistakes and know what to watch out for. But that's the beauty of multidisciplinary work. You're thorough and focused, but that can give blind spots. Someone from another discipline will see something very differently. You have a little fight about it and then agree." 
 

Q5 What do you hope to achieve with this grant?

“A clear and concrete goal is the database,” says Martijn. “But of course we hope to be able to understand what is so destructive in mitochondrial diseases and how. Perhaps our approach and collected data can also be used not just to understand mitochondrial diseases but others too." 
 
Ulrich is more hesitant. "Well… we, of course, hope for a breakthrough, but you cannot predict getting one of those. So, we really cannot say what we’ll discover. We aim to assess the state and dynamics of multi-protein complexes in health and disease. That’s what fundamental sciences is all about and that’s how you get a kick out of it.”
 
Martijn chuckles, “See, I told you, he’s much more cautious.”

Numerous grants were acquired by our outstanding researchers. We are delighted with these accomplishments. The most significant grants awarded in 2018 are represented on this page.

RIMLS highlights 2018


NWO grant for X-omics initiative

Alain van Gool and Peter-Bram 't Hoen talk about the X-omics initiative. This grant allows them to facilitate a large-scale research infrastructure. What role does Radboudumc play?

Top year for Gert Jan Veenstra and Simon van Heeringen

Throwback to a great research year for Gert Jan and Simon. Not only a Vidi grant for Simon, but also a publication in Nature Genetics and they received a TOP grant of NWO.

Ulrich Brandt and Martijn Huijnen Willingness to stay rooted in fundamental research (interview)

Bioinformatician Martijn Huijnen and biochemist Ulrich Brandt have been collaborating for several years now. They appreciate each other’s rigorous work ethic as well as creativity. Their collaboration has resulted in a joint ZonMw Top Grant worth € 675,000.

read interview

European grant for Bastiaan de Galan and Cees Tack

In this video, Bastiaan de Galan and Cees Tack talk about the major European grant worth € 26 million for research into hypoglycemia.

H2020 grant for Alexander Hoischen and colleagues

Solving rare diseases. That is what Alexander Hoischen is working on as workpackage leader in the international network SOLVE-RD.

Horizon 2020 grants

A selection of Horizon 2020 grants obtained by our RIMLS researchers is presented here.

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Horizon 2020 grants

Cancer development & immune defense

H2020: ONCOBIOME - Gut OncoMicrobiome Signatures (GOMS) associated with cancer incidence, prognosis and prediction of treatment response. Jolanda de Vries.
Awarded: € 790K

Cancer development & immune defense

H2020 Marie Sklodowska-ITN: EpiSyStem: Epigenetics and system biology of stem cells and reprogramming. Michiel Vermeulen.
Awarded: € 2.8M

Infectious diseases & global health and Tumors of the digestive tract

H2020 grant: Solve-RD Solving the unsolved rare diseases. Alexander Hoischen and Nicoline Hoogerbrugge.
Awarded: € 15M     

Mitochondrial diseases

H2020 grant: Research into hypoglycemia. Bastiaan de Galan, Cees Tack.        
Awarded: € 26M
 

Tumours of the digestive tract, Reconstructive & regenerative medicine and Nanomedicine 

H2020 grant: EJP-RD - European Joint Programme on rare diseases. Nicoline Hoogerbrugge, Wout Feitz, Peter-Bram ‘t Hoen and others.
Awarded: € 1M       

Personal grants

A selection of personal grants obtained by our RIMLS researchers is presented here.

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Personal grants

Dutch Kidney Foundation

Junior Kolff Fellowship: HNF1β: master regulator of cilia formation and electrolyte homeostasis in ADTKD-HNF1β patients.
Jeroen de Baaij, Renal disorders.
Awarded: €225 

NWO – Rubicon

Young and obese: does inflammation cause the earlier onset of cardiovascular disease?
Siroon Bekkering, Vascular damage. Read the interview.
Awarded: € 80K to visit Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne.       

NWO – Rubicon

Cleaning up cancer with our own immune system.
Kalijn Bol, Cancer development and immune defense. Read the interview.
Awarded: € 80K to visit Center for cancer immune therapy in Copenhagen.  

NWO – Rubicon

Cracking the sugar code.
Christian Büll, Cancer development and immune defense.
Awarded: € 80K to visit Center for Glycomics in Copenhagen.  

NWO – Rubicon

Hidden links in the DNA of cancer patients.
Robin van der Lee, Mitochondrial disorders.
Awarded: € 80K to visit University of British Columbia in Montreal.

NWO – Rubicon

Eliminating tumours with immunotherapy.
Shuang-Yin Wang, Cancer development and immune defense.
Awarded: € 80K to visit the Weizmann institute of science in Jerusalem.

NWO – Veni

Cell surface proteins: an overlooked source of antigens.
Frans Bianchi, Cancer development and immune defense.
Awarded: € 250K     

NWO – Vidi

How to read the genome.
Simon van Heeringen, Cancer development and immune defense. Watch the video.
Awarded: € 800K     

NWO – Vidi

Why do healthy people die of the flu?
Frank van de Veerdonk, Cancer development and immune defense. Read the interview.
Awarded: € 800K 

NWO – Vidi

A microchip-based toolbox to treat osteoporosis.
Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz, Cancer development and immune defense. Read the interview.
Awarded: € 800K    

List of grants

A selection of other grants obtained by our RIMLS researchers is presented here.

read more

List of grants

Cancer development and immune defense

KiKa grant: Role of cryptic intragenic transcription activation in acute myeloid leukemia pathogenesis. Bert van der Reijden and Joost Martens.
Awarded: € 650K 

Cancer development and immune defense

KWF Unique high risk projects: Boosting intraperitoneal NK cell therapy in ovarian cancer through mRNA mediated IL-15 expression. Ronald Brock and Harrij Dolstra.
Awarded: € 117K       

Cancer development and immune defense

KWF Unique high risk projects: The cell by cell measuring of the response to therapy to detect resistant cells. Klaas Mulder.
Awarded: € 220K

Cancer development and immune defense

KWF Research project: Galactin-9 is required for Dendritic Cell function during anti-melanoma immunity. Annemiek van Spriel.
Awarded: € 670K 

Cancer development and immune defense

KWF Research project: Infusion of ex vivo-generated allogeneic natural killer cells in combination with subcutaneous IL-15 superagonist ALT-803 in relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia patients: a phase I/IIa study. Harry Dolstra, Michiel Schaap and Willemijn Hobo.
Awarded: € 1.3M

Cancer development and immune defense

Oncode Institute. Carl Figdor and Michiel Vermeulen.
Awarded: € 750K  

Cancer development and immune defense

ZonMW Top Grant: ldentification of molecular regulatory pathways for specification and maturation of human cardiac subtypes. Gert Jan Veenstra.
Awarded: € 675K

Cancer development and immune defense

NWO Top Grant: Structure-function analysis of protein complexes involved in the transcription coupled DNA damage reponse. Michiel Vermeulen.
Awarded: € 780K

Infectious diseases and global health

NWO National Roadmap for large-scale research facilities: The Netherlands X-omics Initiative. Alain van Gool.
Awarded: € 17M

Inflammatory diseases

NIEHS (NIH) grant: Activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and epithelial integrity. Ellen van den Bogaard.
Awarded: € 600K

Inflammatory diseases

NWO TTW-Nutricia grant: The EARLYFIT study. Renate van der Molen and Irma Joosten.
Awarded: € 750K  

Inflammatory diseases

Innovative Medicine Initiative grant: BIOMAP – Biomarkers in atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.  Ellen van den Bogaard.
Awarded: € 260K 

Inflammatory diseases

ZonMw Off Road subsidy: Op de huid gezeten. Ellen van de Bogaard.
Awarded: € 100K 

Mitochondrial diseases

NWO Top Grant: Molecular mechanism and regulation of energy conversion by mitochondrial complex I. Ulrich Brandt.
Awarded: € 780K

Mitochondrial diseases

ZonMW Top Grant: Complexome remodelling in mitochondrial disease. Martijn Huijnen en Ulrich Brandt.
Awarded: € 675K

Nanomedicine

ZonMw: Goed gebruik geneesmiddelen. Peter-Bram 't Hoen.
Awarded: € 300K

Nanomedicine & Reconstructive and regenerative medicine

Princes Beatrix Spierfonds: Harmful RNA in myotonic dystrophy. Rick Wansink and Frank Walboomers.
Awarded: € 250K

Reconstructive & regenerative medicine

EFRO grant (European Fund for Regional Development): DIABIP, DIAgnose en Behandeling van Incontinentie en Prolaps.  Kirsten Kluivers.
Awarded: € 1M 

Reconstructive and regenerative medicine & Infectious diseases and global health

NWO ALW grant: A matter of identity: master regulator p63-orchestrated transcription factor circuitry in the epithelial cell fate determination of normal development and disease. Jo Zhou and Simon van Heeringen.
Awarded: € 273K   

Renal disorders

ZonMw Pearl grant: Stop safely with eculizumab with the disease of aHUS. Nicole van de Kar.
Awarded: € 150K

Tumors of the digestive tract

KWF Swimming action van der Weijden: Research into hereditary pancreatic cancer. Iris Nagtegaal.
Awarded: € 750K        

Tumors of the digestive tract

UK PTEN Research Foundation: Towards a more accurate cancer risk assessment in germline PTEN mutation carriers. Janet Vos, Nicoline Hoogerbrugge and Marleen Kets.             
Awarded: € 265K

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