Lindsey Burggraaff wins Krijn Rietveld Memorial Innovation Award
Data scientist Lindsey Burggraaff has won the second edition of the Krijn Rietveld Memorial Innovation Award. She receives the prize for her research into bioactive substances in food. ‘Burggraaff's work is situated at a unique intersection of data science, biochemistry and the fields of food and nutrition,’ according to the jury.
Praise from the jury
‘I am very happy,’ Burggraaff says during a video interview. ‘It is of course an honour when a jury selects your research.’ Seven scientists were nominated for the prize named after Krijn Rietveld (see box). The jury chose Burggraaff as the winner because of the quality of her work and its multidisciplinary character. Especially the application of a variety of artificial intelligence technologies stood out,’ jury member Ida Haisma said during the presentation at the online Science Career Event. ‘We also recognised the commercial potential to market new innovative products.’ Besides Haisma, Dean Michiel Kreutzer and DSM Fellow Hans Roubos spoke at the ceremony.
In honour of Krijn Rietveld (1956-2018), Leiden University Fund and Royal DSM have created the Krijn Rietveld Memorial Innovation Award. Launched in 2020, this annual award is organised to recognise and reward excellence in innovative research that contributes to a more sustainable world. Last year, plant biologist Omid Karami was the the first winner of the prize. More information about the prize and Krijn Rietveld can be found on this website.
The research arose from a collaboration with Unilever, says Burggraaff, who obtained her PhD at the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research. ‘Unilever was looking for natural bioactive substances with special properties that they could add to their products. Think of the margarine Becel ProActiv, which has a proven effect on high cholesterol. In my case, we were looking for substances that make for a healthy diet for people with type 2 diabetes.’
Burggraaff focused on a special group of proteins in our body – the SGLT proteins – that are involved in glucose uptake. ‘By finding natural substances that regulate the action of these proteins, healthy products can be marketed that fit a type 2 diabetes-friendly diet. Scientists increasingly use computers in the search for active substances, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. With an innovative data science approach, I have made such a digital search possible for finding bioactive substances for food applications,’ says the winner.
In 2019, Burggraaff won the Leiden preliminary round of Famelab, an international competition in which scientists have to pitch their research in just three minutes. She wrote a blog about her experiences in the Leiden and national rounds. She also presented her research at the science and culture event the Night of Discoveries in Leiden. Currently, she is a Senior Information Manager at Onderlinge ’s-Gravenhage, where she still works with data.