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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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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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UMCG Research prize to Lude Franke

The UMCG Research prize was awarded to Lude Franke at the New Year Reception, held on January 6th. This is in recognition of his achievements over the past few years: gaining an ERC starting grant, an NWO-VIDI, and publishing many papers in top journals. For more information see his personal page

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Harm Jan Westra awarded a Rubicon grant

Harm Jan Westra has been awarded a Rubicon grant by NWO for a project proposal entitled “Localizing autoimmune disease alleles to CD4+ cell state-specific regulatory regions”. He is currently working as a postdoc in Boston under Dr Soumya Raychaudhuri, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is the only UMCG recipient of a Rubicon in this round.

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Lude Franke awarded ERC Starting Grant (€1.5m)

New ‘big data’ approach to identify environmental risk factors for disease Lude Franke (Department of Genetics, UMCG) has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant (€1,500,000) to identify new environmental risk factors for immune diseases. Many diseases have a genetic background but other environmental risk factors (such as viral or bacterial infections) must also play an important role. However, for most diseases these environmental risk factors are still unknown. In this project Lude Franke will identify these risk factors by using large amounts of genetic and gene expression data to study the interplay between genetic risk factors, the role of different

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Lude Franke appointed associate professor

The Department of Genetics is pleased to announce that as of 1st July 2014, Lude Franke has been appointed as an associate professor. We congratulate him on his new position. On behalf of the Management Team, Cisca Wijmenga, Head of department (N.B. This level is equivalent to UHD/adjunct hoogleraar in the Dutch university system or senior lecturer in the British system.)

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2 VIDI grants awarded

May 2014: NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) has awarded VIDI grants to Jingyuan Fu for her project on “Understanding the causal relationships between the host genome, microbiota and lipids” and to Lude Franke for his project on “A novel approach to understanding how DNA variants cause disease”. (1) Understanding the causal relationships between the host genome, microbiota and lipids - Dr. Jingyuan Fu Lipid composition varies widely between human individuals and is associated with many diseases. Numerous studies have shown that the lipid composition can be affected by an individual’s genetic make-up and intestinal microbial composition. Over millions of years, microbes and humans have formed a truly symbiotic relationship.

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Trans eQTL paper by Westra et al. in Nature Genetics

Systematic identification of trans eQTLs as putative drivers of known disease associations, Westra et al. Harm-Jan Westra, … Alexandra Zhernakova, Daria V Zhernakova, … Juha Karjalainen, Sebo Withoff, … Yang Li, Ritsert C Jansen, … Lude Franke, of Dept of Genetics, UMCG, Groningen Published in Nature Genetics online: 08 September 2013 Lude Franke and colleagues report the results of a large expression QTL study performed on peripheral blood samples from 5,311 individuals. They identify trans-eQTL effects for 103 independent loci that were previously associated with complex traits at genome-wide significance, suggesting that this approach can provide insights into the downstream effects of many trait-associated variants.

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