H.G.K. Westenbrink prize


Westenbrink prize 2022/2023: Mandy Koopman

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The H.G.K. Westenbrink Prize 2022-2023 has been awarded to Mandy Koopman for her thesis entitled ‘From cellular vulnerability to altered circuit activity: a systems biology approach to study amyotrophic lateral sclerosis’. The research was conducted in the group of Ellen Nollen, Division of Molecular Neuroscience and Aging at the University of Groningen. The jury describes the research described in Mandy Koopman's dissertation as very impressive and addressing an original question. The research is of exceptional quality and impresses with its breadth and also depth. The methodology developed and the different approaches taken to find means to address the complex disease ALS are highly innovative. The clear writing style and beautiful graphic design of the thesis make it a feast to read. The research has resulted in ten publications, half of which with Koopman as first author and several in top tier journals. During the doctoral program, Koopman completed a course in physical therapy. Mandy Koopman has also been active in science communication, at, among others, Het Klokhuis and as a speaker at NEMO. The Westenbrink award will be presented to Mandy Koopman at the NVBMB's Spring Symposium in 2024 at the University of Twente.

Westenbrink prize 2021/2022: Rebecca Halbach

The H.G.K. Westenbrink Prize 2021 - 2022 has been awarded to Dr. Rebecca Halbach for her thesis entitled "Beyond transposon control: piRNAs in gene regulation and embryonic development". The research was conducted at Radboud University in Nijmegen, in the group of Prof. Dr. ir Ronald van Rij. Dr. Halbach's thesis was evaluated as excellent. The research, within which she herself designed a new line of research, including new methods, is highly original and innovative. The results, which have been published in Nature and frequently cited, among other publications, have resulted in a paradigm shift. In addition, the dissertation is accessibly written and originally designed. The award will be presented to Rebecca Halbach at the NVBMB's Spring Symposium in 2023 in Groningen.

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Westenbrink prize 2020/2021: Rik Lindeboom

The H.G.K. Westenbrink prize 2021/2021 has been awarded to Rik Lindeboom for his PhD thesis entitled ‘Investigating gene regulation in development and disease using integrative omics approaches’. The PhD research was conducted in the group of Prof. dr. dr. Michiel Vermeulen at Radboud University Nijmegen.

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Rik Lindeboom's thesis describes fundamental research into gene regulation in embryonic development, stem cell differentiation and cancer. Rik Lindeboom has used a multi-omics strategy and big data 'omics' analyses, resulting in an original combination of excellent computational and innovative experimental research. By integrating multi-omics datasets of multiple model systems and diseases, his work gave many new insights into the global understanding of how gene regulation is orchestrated at a system-wide level. Rik Lindenboom completed his PhD with honors and currently works as a PostDoc at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. The prize will be awarded during the NVBMB spring symposium in 2022.

Westenbrink prize 2019/2020: João Medeiros Silva

The H.G.K. Westenbrink prize 2019-2020 has been awarded to Dr. João Medeiros Silva for his thesis entitled “Towards the physiologically relevant state with high-resolution solid-state NMR”. The research was conducted at the University of Utrecht under the supervision of Dr. Markus Weingarth.

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Medeiros Silva developed an innovative method by integrating state-of-the-art solid-state NMR with 1H detection and high field dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP). This makes it possible to accurately determine the structure of complex transmembrane domains under physiological conditions. The research, for which bacterial membranes were used, also provides insight into how the local cellular environment affects the binding of antibiotics. This method elucidated the mechanism of action of teixobactin, one of the most promising new antibiotics. “This very original research has resulted in a thesis of exceptionally high quality,” said the jury. The prize will be awarded during the NVBMB spring symposium on March 31, 2021.

Westenbrink prize 2018/2019: Liqin Wang

The H.G.K.Westenbrink prize 2018/2019 has been awarded to Dr. Liqin Wang for his thesis " A one-two punch model for cancer therapy " (promotor: Prof. dr. R. Bernards, Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam).

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Using melanoma cells as a model system Liqin Wang developed a very original two-step cancer treatment. In step 1 the cells become resistant to the first cancer drug, but they become also weak due to high levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In step 2 this weakness is exploited by administering the second cancer drug, which kills the cells by raising ROS levels further. This idea is now being tested in the clinic and the first results are promising. Liqin followed this up by finding a more general “weakness” by inducing senescence in cancer cells. It is expected that his two-step procedure using sequential drugs may be further developed into a general treatment strategy for cancer. The jury finds the quality of Liqin Wang’s thesis and publications of extremely high quality.

About the Westenbrink prize

The H.G.K. Westenbrink prize was established by the Stichting Stimulering Biochemie Nederland (SSBN) and is awarded each year to the best thesis in the area of biochemistry and molecular biology in the previous academic year. The prize includes a charter and  € 2.000, which are handed out during the spring symposium of the NVBMB. Hendrik Gerrit Koob Westenbrink (1901-1964) was a professor in Physiological Chemistry in Utrecht. After World War II he worked very hard to get biochemical research in the Netherlands back to the internation level, as he was well aware of the significant stagnation that had taken place in Dutch biochemical research during the war years.

How to nominate candidates

The board of the SSBN invites you to send nominations for the H.G.K. Westenbrink prize. Please note the following:

  • candidates can only be nominated by their promotor or co-promotor;
  • candidates have to defend at a Dutch university but need not be of Dutch nationality;
  • the research should be in the broad area of the molecular life sciences.

To nominate, send the following documents to the SSBN secretary, dr. H. van Ingen ([email protected]):

  • nomination letter with short motivation describing the importance and quality of the thesis;
  • digital version of the thesis;
  • CV of candidate.
  • Also send the six hardcopies of the thesis to the NVBMB secretariat.
  • The deadline for nominations for the academic year 2023/2024 is July 15, 2024.
  • The jury will judge the theses that have been nominated. The winner will be announced in the fall.

The jury consists of:

  • Prof. dr. Saskia M.van der Vies (chair), Amsterdam University Medical Center
  • Prof. dr. Rolf Boelens, Utrecht University
  • Prof. dr. Ida J. van der Klei, University of Groningen
  • Prof. dr. Dolf Weijers, Wageningen University & Research
  • Dr. Yves J.M. Bollen, VU University, Amsterdam
  • Dr. Ir.Ingrid Dijkgraaf, Maastricht University