Each year, the EU launches calls for postdoc research fellowships through the Marie Sklodowksa-Curie Actions. Fellowships provided through these actions support researchers regardless of age and nationality. Researchers working across all disciplines are eligible for funding. The prestigious two-year funding of Marie Curie fellowships attracts an enormous number of applications. Consequently, these fellowships are very competitive with a typical success rate of around 12%. VIB, however, manages to maintain a success rate of around 27%. The standing of these fellowships also provides an excellent springboard for the launch of an outstanding research career.

It is with great pleasure that VIB welcomes no less than six incoming Marie Curie fellows this year.

Freya Svedberg joins Martin Guilliams’ group (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research). With the project LiverMacRegenCircuit she will investigate the regeneration of the liver. The liver, unlike many other tissues, can rapidly regenerate and restore function following tissue damage or surgical resection. This regenerative capacity has been recognized as far back as the ancient Greeks, who described it in the myth of Prometheus. Despite this, the precise molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning the regeneration process are yet to be fully elucidated. This is where Freya hopes to make her mark.

Patricia Altea Monzano becomes a member of Sarah-Maria Fendt’s lab (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology). Leading the MetaTarget project, Patricia will study how cancer metastases remodel the extracellular matrix. Distant metastases, i.e. secondary tumors, are the leading cause of cancer deaths. Preventing the metastatic outgrowth of these disseminated cancer cells into secondary tumors can be a major contributor to the survival of cancer patients. The ability to remodel the extracellular matrix of the metastatic niche is essential for disseminated breast cancer cells to promote their own metastatic outgrowth. Understanding and preventing this is what Patricia sets out to do.

Sebastién Dumas is welcomed by Peter Carmeliet’s group (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology). Through the project empathy, Sebastién will increase our understanding of how endothelial cell heterogeneity affects pulmonary arterial hypertension.  Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a devastating disease, characterized by a dramatic increase in pulmonary arterial pressure and an intense remodeling of small intrapulmonary arteries. Except for lung replacement therapy, it remains an incurable disease with poor survival. Lung endothelial cells are exposed to diverse microenvironments, which might result in phenotypic and metabolic heterogeneity, which may affect their responses to the disease process. This has never been investigated, until Sebastién came along.

Llucia Alberta Servera joins Jan Cools’ team (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology). Llucia will head the project scTALLmap which aims to improve leukemia treatment. Spaniards have their daily siesta, Germans like sausages, and Belgians love beer. Stereotypes can certainly be misleading, just like judging a cell by its membership to a specific cell type. Nowadays we know that tumors are tremendously heterogeneous. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common cancer in children. It also shows extensive genetic intratumoral heterogeneity. This heterogeneity might be the underlying reason for an incomplete response to treatment and for the development of relapse. Llucia’s work will help us understand this and will contribute to better treatment options.

Panagiotis Karras will soon be a part of Jean-Christophe Marine’s lab (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Cancer Biology). His project, inhuman, will further unravel metastasis development in cancer. Metastasis is largely resistant to therapy and responsible for most cancer-related deaths. An incomplete view of the mechanisms that drive metastasis has been a major barrier to rational development of effective therapies. There is increasing evidence that this multi-step process involves reversible non-genetic reprogramming events allowing cancer cells to acquire diverse phenotypic features needed to migrate, invade, and actively adapt to the varying environments they encounter. With novel methods, Panagiotis will meticulously pick apart these processes and potentially identify new targets in the fight against cancer.

Thomas Moens will perform research in the Ludo Van Den Bosch team (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research). The project StressOME, which Thomas will undertake, aims to elucidate the processes underlying the mysterious disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. But how do you study a disease with no known cause? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a devastating neurodegenerative disease. Patients typically die 3-5 years after symptom onset. At present, there is no cure. Finding a cure is hindered by the lack of obvious causes. The cells of almost all patients show the presence of the RNA binding protein TDP-43.

However, it is not clear what process allows TDP-43 to aggregate. This will be the focus of the Thomas’ StressOME project. Welcome all, we hope you will have a great and fulfilling time at VIB.

However, VIB does not only welcome incoming Marie Curie fellows. No, it is with pride that VIB sends off two of its members to prestigious institutions as outgoing Marie Curie fellow.

Liselotte Dewachter, former member of Jan Michiels’ group (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology), heads off to the University of Lausanne. There, she will continue her work on elucidating cell death pathways.
Anna Schröder, formerly part of the Joris De Wit lab (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research), travels to the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research. In this institute she will keep pursuin her quest to unravel the mysteries of synapse formation.

VIB wishes you the best of luck, ladies.