Awards for young talented researchers at AIMMS annual meeting

At the 2014 annual meeting of AIMMS on Thursday 10 April, a Master’s and 3 PhD students received awards for best oral presentation, poster presentation and discussion contribution.

04/15/2014 | 1:11 PM

Oral presentation competition
5 PhD students performing a research project bridging two AIMMS groups competed for the best oral presentation. The audience determined the winner by casting votes digitally. The winner was Marjolein Glas, PhD student in the Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Microbiology research groups. She presented her work ‘Towards novel antibiotics: targeting the essential bacterial cell division protein FtsQ’. As bacterial resistance is an emerging problem, development of new antibiotics is of great importance. Glas investigates the suitability of the essential bacterial cell division protein FtsQ as an antibiotic drug Marjolein Glastarget.

At the Molecular Microbiology group, she studies the complex formation of FtsQ with other proteins required for division of the bacterium. Subsequently, she applies this knowledge in the Medicinal Chemistry group to develop potent inhibitors of FtsQ which can halt bacterial cell proliferation. Glas performs her PhD project under supervision of Dr. Joen Luirink and Prof. dr. Iwan de Esch. She also received a poster award for her poster presentation on this subject. Together, she is awarded with €800 remuneration to spend on a scientific congress of her choice and an oral presentation at the Figon Dutch Medicine Days in October.

Marjolein Glas_figure annual meeting

Marjolein Glas studies the interactions of FtsQ with other proteins essential for bacterial cell division. The proteins are recruited to the cell division site in a hierarchical order. Inhibition of FtsQ causes severe cell division defects observed as filamentation (see inset), making it a potential target for new antibiotics.

Poster presentations
Out of 43 poster presentations, a jury consisting of four AIMMS principal investigators selected 3 posters accompanied with excellent explanations as winners of the poster market session. The other winners Raymond de Wit and Maurice Steenhuis each receive a sum of €200.

Raymond de WitRaymond de Wit is a PhD student at the Target and Systems Biochemistry research group and received an award for his poster ‘CXCR4-specific nanobodies: potential therapeutics for WHIM syndrome’. Currently, there is no satisfactory treatment for WHIM syndrome: a rare congenital disease caused by mutations in the G protein-coupled receptor CXCR4. Patients suffer from a failing immune system, exemplified by bacterial infections and warts. Utilizing molecular pharmacological and biochemical techniques, De Wit developed and characterized CXCR4-specific nanobodies. These single-domain antibody fragments effectively inhibit CXCR4 receptor hyperactivity, thus demonstrating potential as targeted therapeutics for WHIM syndrome. This work is part of De Wit’s PhD project under supervision of Dr. Henry Vischer and Prof. dr. Martine Smit.

Maurice SteenhuisMaurice Steenhuis is a Master’s student Biomolecular Sciences and performs his research project in the Molecular Microbiology group. He received an award for his poster ‘A fluorescence-based assay to identify compounds that block the secretion of bacterial virulence factors’. To establish infection, pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria like Escherichia coli secrete large virulence factors via the autotransporter pathway. Steenhuis developed an assay in which impaired biogenesis of a model autotransporter is translated into the emission of a fluorescence signal. This technique will be used for screening large compound libraries to find compounds that block the secretion of autotransporters, which can ultimately lead to the identification of new antibiotics. This work is part of Steenhuis’ Master’s internship under supervision of Dr. Wouter Jong and Dr. Joen Luirink.

Best discussion contribution
During the oral presentation competition, all PhD and Master’s students were encouraged to contribute to the presentation’s discussions as the best questioner was awarded with a book voucher. The management team selected Michiel den Braver for engaging this.

Michiel den BraverDen Braver performs his PhD project in the Molecular Toxicology research group under supervision of Prof. dr. Nico Vermeulen, Dr. Jan Commandeur and Dr. Chris Vos. His work is part of the IMI project MIP-DILI which aims for more accurate test models for the prediction of drug-induced liver injury (DILI). He investigates the potential role of the balance between bioactivation and detoxification in the development of DILI. Den Braver mainly utilizes LC-MS to identify and quantify drug metabolites in in vitro models. The acquired information demonstrates the metabolic competence of these models and aids in understanding the relation between drug metabolism and toxicity.


More information
Read the report of the AIMMS 2014 annual meeting here.