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LACDR excels at the FIGON Dutch Medicine Days

The Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR) received no less than three awards during the Figon Dutch Medicine Days. Bas Goulooze won the PhD Prize for best PhD candidate, Natalia Ortiz Zacarías and Huub Sijben both received a poster prize. ‘Scientists must be able to communicate their research in an interesting way.’

High bar

Goulooze was allowed to represent his institute at the FIGON PhD Competition after he had proven himself during the LACDR Spring Symposium in April. The bar was set high: last year, fellow PhD student Rob van Wijk won the first prize for the LACDR. During his presentation, Goulooze talked about his research into pain treatment of children after surgery. ‘Morphine treatment for young children after surgery is standard’, he says. ‘However, in the absence of evidence in children, the current protocols are mainly based on the experience of doctors and protocols for adults.’ According to Goulooze, this is mainly because clinical research in children is difficult for both ethical and practical reasons. ‘Assessing the pain experienced by children is even more difficult’, he says. ‘Pain cannot be measured objectively. You can ask a patient how much pain he or she experiences, but how do you do that with children who are too young to talk?’

Personal pain treatment

Goulooze and his colleagues discovered, among others, that different children require a different morphine concentration in their blood to feel comfortable after surgery. ‘This is an important finding that underlines the need for a personal pain treatment!’ The PhD candidate was pleasantly surprised that also the jury believed his research was interesting. ‘Certainly because of the high level of the others PhDs, I didn’t expect to win the first prize. Collaboration with people from other disciplines such as doctors and pharmacists is very important in my research, and that requires clear communication. This makes it extra special to receive a prize for a presentation.’

Better medicines

‘I believe that, as scientist, we should be able to communicate our research in an enganging and effective way, as with a poster,’ says PhD candidate Ortiz Zacarías. ‘By presenting their research, researchers can enter into fruitful discussions, acquire new insights or find possible collaborations.’ Her poster explained her search for new compounds that inhibit chemokine receptors. ‘These receptors are involved in many diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cancer. We strive to design compounds that bind on the opposite side of the receptor as the chemokines (signaling proteins that cause the disease). This way, our compounds can inhibit the receptor without having to compete with the chemokines for the same binding site. We hope this leads to medicines with improved efficacy.’

The winners of the poster competition, with Ortiz Zacarías (fourth from the left) and Sijben (at the far right)

Effective inhibitors

PhD candidate Huub Sijben investigates whether it is possible to study specialized transport proteins in the cell membrane, without using chemical labels. These can deform the proteins and thus influence reality. ‘On my poster I show this by means of research into inhibitors of the norepinephrine transporter, a transport protein that is an important target for drugs against depression and ADHD. I hope that our method can significantly accelerate the search for more effective inhibitors at an early stage in the development process.’ Sijben found it very exciting to present a new and unknown concept during the FIGON Dutch Medicine Days. ‘But that was precisely the reason I decided to show my current poster there.’

Also read the personal blog from Bas Goulooze: FIGON student competition

Bannerphoto: Bas Goulooze receives the PhD Prize

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