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Nearly €19 million from NWO for development and study of “organs-on-chips”

May 2017 – Organs-on-chips: miniature organs for research purposes It may sound futuristic, but it is now possible to create miniature versions of patients’ organs to study the development and treatment of diseases. This is what researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), University of Twente (UT), Technical University (TU) Delft, the Hubrecht Institute, and Cisca Wijmenga of the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) aim to achieve in the next ten years. Together they’ve been awarded nearly €19 million by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to work on this innovative project. The funding comes from the Dutch Gravitation programme. See more about

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Cisca Wijmenga appointed to new Lodewijk Sandkuijl chair

1st Nov 2017 – Cisca Wijmenga has been appointed to hold a new chair installed by the University of Groningen in memory of Lodewijk Sandkuijl (1953-2002), who helped lay the foundations of statistical genetics. He conceived and developed methods to unravel the hereditary factors involved in complex diseases. See an obituary published in AJHG in 2003. Prof. Wijmenga says ‘Statistics plays a large part in genetic research. It is needed to work out which part of the DNA is linked to a particular disease when studying family trees. ‘Lodewijk Sandkuijl, a doctor who had retrained as a statistician, was there

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VIDI grants for Sasha Zhernakova and Iris Jonkers

May 2017 – Departmental researchers Dr. Iris Jonkers and Dr. Sasha Zhernakova have both been awarded 2017 Vidi grants! These awards from the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO – The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) provide €800,000 for excellent original research programs that can be used to fund up to five years of research. Dr. Jonkers will be using newly developed techniques to identify which single nucleotide polymorphisms truly play a causal role in immune mediated disease using celiac disease as a model. Dr. Zhernakova will characterize the breast milk microbiome and the role it plays in baby health in the LifeLines Next cohort of

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ERC Starting grant for Sasha Zhernakova

In Sept. 2016 Dr. A. (Sasha) Zhernakova was awarded an ERC Starting grant to study: “ The role of the virome in shaping the gut ecosystem during the first year of life”. She will study the development of gut flora in newborns. At birth, babies have a limited number of bacteria and viruses in their guts. These increase during the first twelve months, eventually forming a stable colony of gut flora (the microbiome). She will try to discover how the viruses and bacteria develop and how this affects babies’ health. She will study both genetic factors and environmental factors, such as diet, vaccinations

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Study shows how genes affect immunity in response to pathogens

Schematic overview of study into the response of immune cells to stimulation with varied pathogens A study that is first in its kind and published in Nature Medicine on 4th July has looked at how far genetic factors control the immune cell response to pathogens in healthy individuals. A team investigated the response of immune cells from 200 healthy volunteers when stimulated with a comprehensive list of pathogens ex vivo (outside the human body), and has correlated these responses with 4 million genetic variants (SNPs). The study was performed by scientists from University Medical Centre Groningen, Radboud University Medical Centre (both

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VIDI award for Morris Swertz

Congratulations to Dr Morris Swertz, who has been awarded an NWO-VIDI to develop “Scalable ‘big data’ methods towards personalized genome diagnostics”.  New NGS techniques can now measure all the DNA variations in an individual in one experiment. Unfortunately, this is not yet leading to more diagnoses bacause genetic labs are drowning in the amount of data produced. Previously, tests were performed only on single genes. This VIDI project will develop personalized whole genome diagnostics (patient-oriented techniques to find damaging mutations more quickly and better). With the costs of next-generation sequencing dropping rapidly, we expect thousands of patients to soon have whole-genome

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Spinoza award for Cisca Wijmenga

At NWO’s Bessensap event on 12th June, it was announced that Cisca Wijmenga is one of four NWO Spinoza prize winners for 2015. The NWO Spinoza prize in brief The NWO Spinoza prize is the highest award in the Netherlands science arena and can be seen as the ‘Dutch Nobel Prize’. Each year, NWO awards Spinoza prizes to three or four researchers working in the Netherlands who, according to international standards, belong at the very top of their scientific field. NWO Spinoza laureates perform ground-breaking research that has a major impact and they are a source of inspiration to younger researchers. The prize winners

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Great visit by Francis Collins, Obama’s adviser on health, to Dept of Genetics

Prof. Francis Collins, the director of NIH and Obama’s advisor on healthcare, visited the Department of Genetics on 17-18th March 2015. He gave two excellent talks to packed theatres on the exciting advances being made in genomics, the new US Precision Medicine Initiative, and aspects of healthy ageing. During his visit he met with PhD students and postdocs to hear about their cutting edge research, and he met members of the UMCG board, the Queen’s Commissioner and Groningen town mayor. He was also one of the supervisors (promotors) at the PhD graduation ceremony on 18th March of Michael Erdos, a Senior Staff Scientist at NIH.

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Intern Dirk de Weerd wins poster prize

Automated NIPT diagnostics pipeline. The development of an automated Non Invasive Prenatal Test analysis pipeline using MOLGENIS compute framework by H.A. de Weerd, F. van Dijk, E.N. de Boer, M. Dijkstra, B. Sikkema-Raddatz, G.J. te Meerman, M.A. Swertz and L.F. Johansson Department of Genetics, and Genomics Coordination Center, Department of Genetics, University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands Dirk de Weerd’s poster on NIPT has won a prize in the Hanze University’s Institute of Life Science and Technology poster competition, which had some 100 submissions from students taking courses at HBO/undergraduate/Bachelor of Applied Science level, for example, in bioinformatics, chemistry, and

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Morris Swertz appointed Associate Professor of Big Data

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Morris Swertz, Head of the Genomics Coordination Centre, has been appointed to a new chair of Big Data in Biomedical Science as of February 1st 2015. We would like to congratulate Morris on this achievement. On behalf of the Management Team Prof. Cisca Wijmenga, Head of department See more on the GCC and on Morris’ work at http://www.systemsgenetics.nl/group/swertz/

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