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Coen Bouwstra

Professor and Knight: Joke Bouwstra Receives Royal Honor

A memorable farewell symposium and a royal distinction: Professor Joke Bouwstra could not have completed her career at Leiden with more pleasure. On Friday, 14 June, she received a Royal Honor from Leiden Mayor Peter van der Velden, who appointed Bouwstra as a Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion for her exceptional contributions to science.

‘The farewell symposium was memorable,’ reflects Bouwstra. ‘With four wonderful lectures by former PhD candidates, a relaxed atmosphere, and a focus on my own farewell lecture.’ Bouwstra provided an overview of her research over the past 38 years, highlighting the contributions of postdocs and PhD candidates. ‘After all, they conducted the research,’ she adds.

About Joke Bouwstra

Bouwstra began her career in 1985 at the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR), becoming a professor of Drug Delivery in 2003. She also chaired the Department of Drug Delivery Technology. Bouwstra retired in July 2023.

Skin expert with 38 years of experience

Bouwstra is renowned as an international expert in the structure and physical properties of the skin. She was the first female professor of pharmaceutical sciences in Leiden. ‘This distinction acknowledges 38 years of remarkable research by our team,’ Bouwstra explains. ‘We successfully combined fundamental research with practical applications.’

Joke Bouwstra receiving the Royal Honor from Mayor Peter van der Velden. Image: Coen Bouwstra.

Delivering medicines through the skin

For instance, Bouwstra’s team mapped the lipid structure of human skin, revealing that these lipids are organised in layers. This discovery laid the basis for new medications targeting skin conditions like eczema.

Bouwstra was also a pioneer in novel methods of drug delivery, such as using microneedles and nanoparticles. This research has enabled the efficient and patient-friendly administration of certain medications and vaccines through the skin.

Skin lipids and their role in skin repair

Bouwstra takes great pride in her collaboration with the Dermatology Department at LUMC. ‘We combined various clinical studies and investigated skin lipids in the lab using models and cultured human skin,’ she explains. ‘This combination of studies has yielded numerous insights. These include understanding how the chain length of skin lipids significantly influences barrier function and how inflamed skin alters lipid production. This understanding has clarified why certain medications can restore our skin’s barrier function.’

Further reading

Also read the original press release from the Municipality of Leiden (in Dutch).

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