Prof. Minnaard and Dr. Buter have been awarded first NWO ENW Team Science Award

Prof. Minnaard and Dr. Buter (UG, Stratingh Institute ), together with Dr. van Rhijn (University of Utrecht) and Prof. Moody (Harvard), have been awarded the first NWO ENW Team Science Award. This cross-disciplinary team receives the award for the development of ‘Comparative Lipidomics, a new strategy to study pathogenic bacteria that forms the basis for novel drug development, diagnostics and vaccines’.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause of TB
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause of TB

The team is a cross-disciplinary team that has been working together for 14 years towards a common goal: to identify the key molecules that promote progression and response in tuberculosis. The team combines the strengths of synthetic and analytical organic chemistry, microbiology and immunology to reach their goals. An important detail is that the team does not focus on proteins but on lipids.

The team makes discoveries using an ‘iterative approach’: Moody discovers novel lipids by comparing pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria; Minnaard synthesizes the lipid(s); Van Rhijn studies their interaction with the human immune system, and Buter prepares new light-activatable drugs gleaned from these results. The combination of these complementary expertises and techniques is what makes the work of this team unique.

Besides pioneering in a new research field, the team has also made their discoveries open for researchers from all around the world. This knowledge and reagents sharing initiative benefits the advancement of lipid biology and sets a new scientific standard.

The assessment committee feels that it concerns a strong team that has been working together for a long time. The scientific goal of the team is clearly defined and there is a clear synergy between the team members and their expertise. Without this interdisciplinary character, the research would likely not be as effective. Additionally, the committee very much appreciates the fact that the newly synthesized lipids are freely available for everyone.

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