Medicinal chemist Saskia Nijmeijer receives NWO Veni grant

Dr. Saskia Nijmeijer has been awarded a Veni grant of €250.000 from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) on 29 July. The grant allows Nijmeijer to start a new research line on the role of specific G protein-coupled receptors in glioblastoma – the most common and most aggressive brain tumor.

07/31/2014 | 4:16 PM

Glioblastoma is an untreatable brain tumor in which two G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are expressed at an elevated level. Proteins in the GPCR family are important targets for one third of the  marketed drugs. The elevated proteins in glioblastoma are so-called adhesion GPCRs, which mediate cell adhesion and migration to correct position cells in our body. Dysfunctions such as mutations or differential expression of adhesion-GPCRs causes organ malformations, tumor growth and metastasis.

Saskia NijmeijerStick or sprout

Compared to the understanding of well-studied GPCR drug targets, biochemical knowledge on the subfamily of adhesion-GPCRs is in its infancy. In the Veni project Stick or sprout in brain cancer? Unravel the biochemistry of adhesion-GPCRs, Nijmeijer will investigate how the biochemical function of these receptor proteins contributes to glioblastoma. A better understanding of adhesion-GPCRs provides ways to biochemically modulate the functioning of these receptor proteins. This knowledge could ultimately lead to novel therapies against glioblastoma.

Collaborations

Nijmeijer will perform her research within the Medicinal Chemistry & Target and Systems Biochemistry research groups that are part of the Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems (AIMMS). This project is in collaboration with Dr. Tom Würdinger of the Cancer Center Amsterdam at the VU Medical Center to study the receptors in a physiological relevant setting. It is also strengthening the GPCR research line at the VU. Recently, this research was also supported by a NWO Vici grant for Martine Smit of €1.5M and a NWO TOP-PUNT grant for Rob Leurs and Martine Smit of €2M.

Nijmeijer’s career
Dr. Saskia Nijmeijer graduated from the Bachelor’s of Applied Sciences in Biochemistry from Hogeschool Inholland and a Master’s in Drug Discovery and Safety from VU University Amsterdam. In 2013, she obtained her PhD degree at the VU University Amsterdam in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry. Her project focused on the pharmacological characterization of GPCR ligands. The past year Nijmeijer has been involved in the launching of the AIMMS Chemical Biology Platform that supports AIMMS researchers in the discovery of new molecules for diverse biological targets.

About NWO Veni
The Veni grant scheme is part of NWO’s Talent Scheme (Veni, Vidi and Vici) aimed at different career phases of scientists. With this Talent Scheme, NWO and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science encourage curiosity-driven and innovative research. Veni enables young researchers who gained their PhD no more than three years ago to take an important step in their scientific career. They are free to choose their own subject of research.

More information
Read the press release of NWO (in Dutch)

An overview of all 2014 Veni laureates of VU University (in Dutch)

Contact Saskia Nijmeijer