Four Amsterdam researchers admitted to NWO’s Faculty of Impact

March 28, 2024

In the Life Sciences & Health round, 14 researchers have been selected for the Faculty of Impact programme for two years of intensive and personal guidance in entrepreneurship, intellectual property and investment. Four Amsterdam based researchers have been selected as well: Anouk Post (VU), Olivier Lugier (UvA), Felix Paulußen (VU) and Ewelina Weglarz-Tomczak (UvA). A camera the size of a pill, innovative nanoparticles for biomedical breakthroughs, a new targeted treatment for colorectal cancer, and new drugs against Alzheimer’s disease, will be further developed.

Anouk Post (VU Amsterdam) – LightUP: a pill-sized imaging device for the early detection of oesophageal cancer

Each year, 600,000 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and 75% die within 5 years after receiving this diagnosis. Early detection dramatically improves survival rates. Screening is offered to people with Barrett’s oesophagus, a disease linked to a higher oesophageal cancer risk, but it misses 25% of early cancer and is expensive. Anouk Post and team created LightUP, a pill-sized imaging device that will detect at least 25% more early cancer than current screening, at a lower cost.

Olivier Lugier (UvA) – Nano hybrids: innovative core/shell nanoparticles for biomedical breakthroughs

Core/shell nanoparticles, have demonstrable potential in addressing global health threats like cancer, sepsis or malaria. However, their manufacturing processes rely on lengthy solvent-based methods, lack versatility, and yield contaminated products, hindering clinical translation. Olivier Lugier (Functional Materials group) is developing the automated and solvent-free synthesis of high-purity core/shell nanoparticles. Olivier Lugier won the AmSIA in 2023 in the category of Environment & Climate.

Felix Paulußen (VU Amsterdam) – Ninetac: new modalities for the treatment of colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a common and deadly disease. While surgery is the main treatment option, many patients still rely on radio- and chemotherapy associated with severe drawbacks. Therefore, extensive efforts towards molecular targeted therapies have been undergone, however, with very limited success. Felix Paulußen’s project team has developed two families of peptide-derived agents that address a key driver of CRC, aberrant β-catenin/Wnt pathway activation. These inhibitors interfere with the β-catenin/transcription factor interaction and have shown cellular activity. Thus, they provide the ideal starting point for the development of therapeutics that target Wnt-dependent cancers as well as their valorisation.

Ewelina Weglarz-Tomczak (UvA) – Novel inhibitors of the lysosomal protease for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an age-dependent progressive neurodegenerative disorder which is becoming a healthcare burden of epidemic proportions affecting not only patients but also their families, friends and society as whole. Inhibitors of the enzyme, which is a key factor in the molecular mechanisms of AD pathologies, have been discovered. Ewelina Weglarz-Tomczak’s goal is to deliver new anti-AD drugs that are curative and safe.

About Faculty of Impact

Faculty of Impact offers an intensive, two-year programme for researchers to focus 100% of their time on turning their research into a business with positive societal impact. Participating researchers, now fellows of The Faculty of Impact, meet up every month for training over the course of one week. The remaining time, the researchers stay connected to their own university or research institution. After nine months, the fellows evaluate in what role they will continue the program, as CEO of the intended company, as CTO or rather from the university, as scientific advisor. At the end of the two years, the idea or product is ready for demonstration in practice and for attracting funds for the next step of development.

Thematic rounds

Faculty of Impact works with thematic rounds, that are connected to the major societal challenges of our time. The first time the call was open, it welcomed applications from researchers working on solutions towards the theme of ‘energy transition and sustainability’. The current round is on the theme of Life sciences & Health. Later rounds will touch on other themes, such Artificial Intelligence and Food & Agriculture.

The Faculty of Impact is a collaboration between the Universities of the Netherlands (VSNU), Techleap and NWO.

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