Universiteit Leiden

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Institute of Biology

Nature is a never-ending source of inspiration for the researchers at the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL). Based on a better fundamental understanding of nature, they are able to seek solutions in the area of health and biodiversity. The theme of IBL is ‘Harnessing biodiversity for health.’

Treasure trove

The researchers at IBL aim – in fundamental and applied research – to translate biological principles into practical solutions. They conduct research over the full breadth of biology within the clusters of Animal Sciences, Microbial Sciences and Plant Sciences, each of which has its own signature and facilities. IBL also has a department of science communication. The four research themes at IBL are:

  • Bioactive molecules
  • Host-microbe interactions
  • Evolution & Biodiversity
  • Development & Disease

Medicine development

Within ‘Bioactive molecules’ and ‘Host-microbe interactions,’ much attention is paid to the development of new antibiotics and anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer drugs as well as to crop-protection solutions, from insects and moulds, for instance. The researchers compare the genes of thousands of bacteria with the aid of their unique collection of bacterial strains. This research has led to the discovery of new antibiotics in the Streptomyces genus.

The biologists at IBL also study the evolution of snakes and how these protect themselves from venom gland infections. Two antibiotics have recently been isolated from snake venom and are now being marketed for clinical applications.

‘The committee is impressed by IBL’s overall research quality, which is excellent. The IBL performs world-class research in the scientific areas of animal, plant and microbial biology.’

Assessment of Research Quality lnstitute of Biology Leiden (lBL) 2011-2016

Biodiversity and sustainability

The researchers from the ‘Evolution & Biodiversity’ theme have close ties with Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the Hortus botanicus Leiden. Behavioural research is equally important. The researchers try to draw parallels between animals and humans through research into birds. This research is of great impact to society and our understanding of how people communicate.

Some of the research at IBL involves the sustainable production of crops. The results are of interest to the horticulture sector, research in which the entire DNA of a tulip has been sequenced, for instance. This technological breakthrough may prove important in the future development of more-resistant tulip bulbs.

Cell biology and the origin of disease

Cell biology is central to the theme of ‘Development & disease.’ Here use is made of facilities such as NeCEN, a national centre for advanced electron microscopy. They use these techniques for research into tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer.

Teaching and public-private collaboration

Research and teaching are closely integrated at IBL. All biology students do a research internship, so that they can experience for themselves what it is like to work in the lab or field.

Research projects are regularly funded through public-private partnerships. In the field of antibiotics, this includes the NACTAR research programme and the close involvement with the Netherlands Centre for One Health (NCOH). In the area of crop improvement and modern breeding methods, the researchers from IBL also work closely with the very sophisticated crop-breeding industry in the Netherlands.

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