Veni, together with Vidi and Vici, is part of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Talent Program (formerly: the Innovations Impulse). Veni is aimed at excellent researchers who have recently gained their doctorates. Within the Talent Program, researchers are free to submit their own subject for funding. In this way, NWO encourages curiosity-driven and innovative research. NWO selects researchers based on the quality of the researcher, the innovative nature of the research, the expected scientific impact of the research proposal and opportunities for knowledge utilization.
Caitrín Crudden received a Veni award for her research project ‘Intercepting Cancer’s Mail; how extracellular vesicles micro-manage the secretome’. Cell biology relies on so-called ‘lock and key’ receptor-ligand interactions. But ‘keys’ (ligands) are not free floating on their quest to find their ‘lock’ (receptor). Instead ’key-chains’ (decoys) hold them and dictate their freedom. Crudden will investigate how these molecular key-chains control cell migration in cancer, a process fundamental to disease progression.
The research project ‘Nanotrivax: three-component nanobody-vaccines targeting human dendritic cells for immunotherapy’ earned Alsya Affandi a Veni award. Dendritic cells (DCs) are master regulators of immune system that have tremendous immunotherapy potential; however, current strategies have been unsatisfactory. Affandi aims to develop nanobody-based vaccines, consisting DC-targeting and DC-modulating nanobodies, conjugated to disease-antigen, to improve anti-tumor immune responses in cancer, or to dampen inflammation in autoimmune diseases.