Michel Orrit and Hermen Overkleeft members KNAW
The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) selects prominent researchers as members based on their scientific achievements. On September 17th, the KNAW will install 21 new members, including Leiden physicist Michel Orrit and chemist Hermen Overkleeft.
Michel Orrit has laid the foundation for single-molecule optics. He developed a sensitive technique that uses laser light at specific wavelengths to illuminate individual molecules. At first, this applied only to fluorescent molecules, but later Orrit broadened the technique so that it also worked on 'dark' molecules. One of his most recent achievements is scanning the conditions in a cell using gold nanoparticles. Orrit's methods enable scientists to unravel many kinds of physical and chemical processes in living matter. In 2017 he was awarded the NWO Spinoza Prize—the highest Dutch scientific award.
Overkleeft wants to gain insight into biological processes at molecular level. He combines organic chemistry with glycobiology and immunology. He designs, for example reactive molecules that react with different classes of enzymes - both proteases and glycosidases - and subsequently remain irreversibly bonded.Using this toolkit, he has developed diagnostic agents that can be used in a variety of diseases, from haematological cancers to lysosomal storage diseases. These reagents can also be used in the search for compounds that could affect these diseases. Hermen Overkleeft is also scientific director of the Leiden Institute of Chemics.