Life sciences & health fellows

Here’s our second group of fellows. Their research focuses on life sciences & health.

Emma Moonen

Eindhoven University of Technology
Sweat-Based Biomarker Monitoring Platform

We have invented a platform which is the only device with the potential to noninvasively monitor biomarker concentrations from individuals in rest, by enabling the use of sweat. A biosensor can be integrated in the platform to measure biomarker concentrations and the sweat rate can be monitored with an integrated capacitive sensor. Utilising sweat to obtain biomarker concentrations reduces the need for invasive blood draws and diagnostic testing. Because sweat is continuously available and can be measured in situ, the time from sample to answer is significantly reduced. This time reduction can be critical when patients deteriorate rapidly. To fully convince clinicians and achieve clinical implementation, we will focus on implementation of the device into the clinical workflow by executing clinical case studies on not just the device functionality, but also on the clinical relevance, fitting in the workflow and the benefit of sweat monitoring.

Irati Beltran and Sebas Pronk

Utrecht University
Cancer Therapy: One-day, side effect-free, selective.

The quality of life of cancer patients is not only reduced by the disease itself, but also because of current anticancer treatments and their severe side effects. We have developed a new therapy consisting of a one-day treatment with no side effects, as it has two levels of selectivity: a nanobody directs a light-activatable drug to cancer cells, which are killed only upon local light application. We aim to establish a startup as a vehicle towards valorisation of our research and bring our therapy forward to the market, to cure and treat cancer patients, and improve their quality of life.

Felix Paulussen

VU Amsterdam
Targeted colorectal cancer therapy

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a common and often fatal disease. While surgery is the main treatment option, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are often necessary and come with substantial drawbacks. Consequently, molecular targeted therapies have been explored as an alternative approach, so far with very limited success. Our research team has made significant progress by developing two families of peptide-derived agents that address a key driver of CRC: hyperactivation of the Wnt signalling pathway. These innovative agents inhibit the interaction between the oncogene β-catenin and associated transcription factors, thereby preventing the transcription of Wnt target genes. Most notably, they have shown promising cellular activity. Thus, they serve as an ideal foundation for the development of therapeutics targeting Wnt-dependent cancers.

Kiran Vaidhya Venkadesh

Radboudumc
Precision in early cancer detection

In the Netherlands, over three million CT and MRI scans are made annually, playing a pivotal role in the early detection of cancer, where treatments are most effective. LesionLens, an innovative AI startup, employs state-of-the-art 3D deep learning technology to pinpoint irregularities within these scans, evaluating the risk of cancer in each suspicious area. Our technology has proven successful in identifying lung cancer in CT scans and prostate cancer in MRI scans. By establishing partnerships with several radiology departments, we aim to broaden our range of AI applications, providing radiologists with unwavering support and making early cancer detection more accessible. During my tenure with the Faculty of Impact, I plan to launch this venture, ensure our AI solutions meet regulatory standards, and work towards introducing our cutting-edge cancer detection tools into clinical practice.

Olivier Lugier

University of Amsterdam
Sustainable biomedical diagnostics with nano hybrids

Nano Hybrids develops an innovative technology to address challenges of nanoparticles production. Translating fundamental research conducted within the University of Amsterdam, our safe-by-design and solvent-free process reduces environmental impact and enables the production of a broad range of metal-based core-shell nanoparticles. These nanoparticles have the potential to transform many high-impact technological fields like sustainable energy or biomedicine by supporting the creation of new devices and processes, or significantly improving performances in existing ones. Nano Hybrids currently focusses on developing magnetic nanoparticles for biomedical diagnostics.

As a fellow of the Faculty of Impact, my goal is to sharpen my entrepreneurial skills, validate our value proposition, and refine our go-to-market market strategy. This will help Nano Hybrids to navigate the early stages of venture building and ensure that our innovative solutions reach their full market potential and societal impact.

Nazma Ilahibaks

University Medical Center Utrecht
Turning natural nanoparticles into gene therapy cures

Gene therapy promise is to cure diseases by fixing faulty genes. Its success depends on effective delivery systems—vehicles that transport gene-editing tools into cells. Current delivery systems, such as viral and synthetic particles, face problems with immunogenicity and toxicity. To solve this, we use natural nanoparticles called extracellular vesicles. Clinical evidence shows that these natural nanoparticles are safe, compatible, and low in immunogenicity, making them promising for effective gene therapy. Jama Therapeutics aims to advance extracellular vesicles as a platform technology for developing innovative gene therapies to cure diseases.

Joric Oude Vrielink

Eindhoven University of Technology
Robotic precision for early lung cancer detection

Lung cancer accounts for the highest number of cancer-related deaths worldwide, claiming 1.8 million lives globally and 260,000 in Europe alone. Late detection and suboptimal treatments are major contributors to the low survival rate. Upon detection, a tissue biopsy is essential to confirm the cancer type and guide the most adequate treatment plan. However, in early stages the success rate of lung biopsies drops significantly from 96% to as low as 52%. To tackle this issue, we are developing a novel robotic-assisted technology to for interventional radiologists to accurately placing needles in small targets.

During the Faculty of Impact programme the aim is to learn the entrepreneurial skills and build a sustainable business to ensure that future lung cancer patients get access to successful lung biopsies at an early stage.

Anouk Post

Netherlands Cancer Institute
Faster, smarter esophageal cancer screening

Healthcare costs and staffing shortages are increasing worldwide. If we want to keep receiving high-quality care, we need disruptive innovations that diagnose and treat faster, with less personnel and at lower costs – while maintaining or improving patient outcomes.

We developed just that for esophageal cancer screening. The LightUp is a pill-sized camera with advanced imaging techniques, that can be swallowed by a patient. A nurse pulls it up by a string in a few minutes and an AI algorithm gives a diagnosis. Currently,  the screening procedure is performed with a camera attached to a flexible tube and takes a doctor and two nurses 30 minutes. LightUp will not only save man-hours and costs, it will also detect at least 25% more early cancer.

As Faculty of Impact fellow I want to turn our research into a company that further develops the LightUp and brings it into hospitals where it will impact patients.

Yvonne Derks

Radboudumc
Targeted radiation for prostate cancer therapy

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer and fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths amongst men worldwide. We developed an innovative prostate cancer targeting agent that is particularly promising for prostate cancer therapy: it can be coupled to a therapeutic radionuclide to specifically irradiate tumor lesions while spearing normal tissues, so-called radioligand therapy. Our team of enthusiastic researchers are currently building a Radboudumc spin-off called Aurelius Therapeutics, that aims to further develop this targeting agent (i.e. PSMA ligand) into the clinic. As a faculty of impact fellow, I aim to demonstrate the anti-tumor efficacy of our patented PSMA ligand using the currently emerging and promising tandem radioligand therapy for prostate cancer. Moreover, I intend to strengthen my entrepreneurship skills and direct our company towards success.

Arjan Stoppelenburg

Utrecht University
Nanoparticle therapy for autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases are serious conditions with high burden on patients, society, and economy. There is no cure (yet) for these chronic diseases, only immunosuppressive drugs that require life-long use and can cause serious side effects.

At Utrecht University we have invented nanoparticle technology which helps the body regain control over the autoimmune response. Our nanoparticles invoke an immune reaction that suppresses autoimmune inflammation specifically in the affected tissues. By founding a new venture, we will continue the development of this technology toward an affordable off-the-shelf therapy which in the future may potentially cure autoimmune disease.

Carlos de Lannoy

TU Delft
Accelerating protein drug development

We want to enable drug developers to make the right decisions faster, when developing protein-based drugs. Currently, their task is made difficult by the wide variety of difficult-to-separate compounds found in drug candidate samples. Instead of separating these compounds, we propose to analyze them smarter: using a new microscopy technology, we will help developers to identify each individual molecule in a sample and subsequently test its suitability as a drug. A benchtop device could handle millions of such tests simultaneously for hundreds of mixed compounds, without the need for prior purification.

The Faculty of Impact provides us with the resources, network and support to determine where in biopharmaceutics the best opportunities for us are, and how to reach our clients there. Furthermore, the training provided by the Faculty of Impact will allow us to build a team that can face the specific challenges of developing deep biotech hardware.

Patrick Dekker

Leiden University
Superior small molecules for the treatment of hematological cancers and auto-immune diseases

The current proteasome inhibitors used for the treatment of multiple myeloma, while effective, have shown to inadvertently cause treatment-ending side effects. These clinically used proteasome inhibitors, bortezomib and carfilzomib, are unable to distinguish between the different proteasome subtypes. The itself proteasome has proven to be a valuable drug target in both the fields of hematological oncology and auto-immunity. Of the different proteasome subtypes the immunoproteasome is predominantly expressed in hematological cancers as well as, other immune-competent cells and is therefore regarded as the main target. We are of the opinion that our immunoproteasome selective inhibitors have the potential to outperform the current clinically used inhibitors by showing equal efficacy and minimizing side effects. It is our aim, through participation into the faculty of impact program, to further improve and equip ourselves with the right skillset to successfully advance our innovation into preclinical stages and beyond.

Ewelina Węglarz-Tomczak

University of Amsterdam
Novel drug candidates for Alzheimer’s

Forget about Alzheimer’s Disease! Thanks to our innovative, cutting-edge de novo drug design technology, we identified novel drug candidates for this devastating, progressive neurodegenerative condition! Alzheimer’s Disease is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid-β plaques and aggregated forms of tau protein in the brain. These processes result in cognitive impairment, and eventually dementia. Promising molecules that target crucial pathways leading to the generation of amyloid-β and tau pathologies have been discovered. Our goal is to deliver new drugs that are curative and safe. As a consequence, Alzheimer’s Disease, which is becoming a healthcare burden of epidemic proportions affecting not only patients but also their families, friends, and society as a whole, will soon be a thing of the past!