LUMC Awards, grants and appointments

27 July 2022• NEWS RELEASE

LUMC students are regularly nominated for awards or receive grants for the research or work they carry out. This week we highlight the NIH grant for malaria-related research and focus on the VVZG’s ‘Best Quality Improvement Project of 2021’ for post-operative pain.

[This item is also available in English.]

NIH grant to Maria Yazdanbakhsh and Bart Everts

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $2.4 million grant to develop a better malaria vaccine. The international study is a collaboration between eight partners with Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) as program coordinator.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Maria Yazdanbakhsh and Dr. Bart Everts (Associate Professor) from the Leiden University Center for Infectious Diseases (LU-CID) has received part of the funding ($500,000). They will try to gain more insight into immunometabolic pathways that can improve the effectiveness of the vaccine in Africa.

“An effective malaria vaccine would complement other public health measures and is likely essential to ending the high burden of this disease worldwide,” Yazdanbakhsh said. A number of studies have shown that the effectiveness of a malaria vaccine can vary from 20 to 100 percent in different countries and population groups. “Unfortunately, it is low- and middle-income countries where these vaccines perform poorly. There is therefore an urgent need for a better understanding of the immunological pathways that influence this variation.”

There are even significant differences in vaccine effectiveness in rural and urban areas of African countries. This implies that exposure to environmental elements plays an important role in influencing a person’s immune profile, in addition to that of genetic determinants. “To better understand our immune response to malaria, we will look at the metabolism of immune cells. We will do this through new methods developed in my laboratory,” says Evers. “This will allow us to determine whether metabolic adaptation in immune cells is involved in poor response to vaccines”. LUMC professors Meta Roestenberg and Jelle Goeman are also participating in the study. Ultimately, the consortium aims to generate data to support further studies on how changes in vaccination dose, intervals and adjuvants can affect vaccination outcomes.

Read More than 700,000 euros for the fight against aggressive breast cancer

To inhibit proteins that play a role in the growth of aggressive cancer cells, that is the plan of Professor Bob van de Water and his team. For this they receive more than 700,000 euros from KWF Kankerbestrijding.

“Our goal is to find out more about the role of a number of specific proteins in triple-negative breast cancer, or TNBK,” says Van de Water. TNBK is rare but very aggressive (see box). ‘And because the current forms of treatment are not effective enough, we are looking for new treatments at the Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research. I do that together with Sylvia Le Dévédec and Peter Bouwman.’

Read the entire article on Leiden University’s website.

NWO XS grant of fifty thousand euros to Elena Naumovska

Elena Naumovska, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Internal Medicine in LUMC, has been awarded an NWO Open Competition Exact and Natural Sciences (ENW) – XS grant. In her project, she investigates the possibility of using mRNA technology from certain COVID-19 vaccinations to treat type 1 diabetes.

The NWO Science-XS grant category aims to stimulate ambitious research by curious researchers, which requires relatively rapid exploration of a promising idea. mRNA technology has the potential to revolutionize regenerative medicine as it enables the synthesis of a wide variety of mRNAs that can be used to express any desired protein. However, due to its immunogenicity (ie, the ability of a foreign substance to elicit an immune response in the human body) and lack of stability, mRNA is not commonly used as a therapeutic agent. “So far,” notes Naumovska. “To overcome these limitations, a lot of effort has gone into synthetic approaches to mRNA modification, the possibilities of which have become more apparent, especially during the pandemic.” In this innovative project, the researcher proposes to use the COVID-19 vaccine technology to produce insulin-producing cells suitable for the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Hospitalist Julia Mangione wins first prize for quality improvement project on postoperative pain.

Julia Mangione, hospitalist in the Department of Internal Medicine, received first prize for her quality improvement project on postoperative pain at the Association of Hospital Medicine’s (VVZG) lustrum symposium on Friday, June 24. The project aimed to improve postoperative pain management and focused on pain recording, pain management and opiate reduction.

“The less pain after surgery, the faster the recovery,” says Mangione. “It is important to control the pain and the use of painkillers properly. People who are constantly in bed after surgery because of the pain are more likely to have complications, such as pulmonary embolism or bedsores, and even a heart attack. Because of ineffective pain management, patients often spend an unnecessarily long time in hospital. Nevertheless, careful use of opiates is also important after discharge, for example to prevent addiction.”

The successful improvement project was carried out in LUMC on two Surgical Nursing Departments and was carried out together with the pain team, nurses and doctors in surgery and orthopedics. The improvement measures include clinical lessons, an e-learning and a patient brochure for self-tapering of opiates. With this project, Julia completed her profile training as a hospital doctor last August.

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