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Delft/BN PhD alumnus Luuk Loeff receives NWO Rubicon grant

[18-01-2019]

The Rubicon programme gives young, highly promising researchers the opportunity to gain international research experience. Thanks to a Rubicon grant from NWO, seventeen researchers who have recently received their PhD degree can continue their research at foreign research institutes. One of them is our alumnus Luuk Loeff.

LuukLuuk Loeff in his new lab in Zurich (Photo by a colleague) 

Loeff found a place in the laboratory of Martin Jinek at the University of Zurich (UZH). Jinek became well-known through his work at the lab of Jennifer Doudna (USA), one of the discoverers of the CRISPR-Cas system that enables researchers to make highly precise modifications of cells. UZH is thus an attractive place for a biochemist who has thrown himself into CRISPR.

“In Delft, I studied under Chirlmin Joo and examined the interaction of proteins under the microscope only using molecular fluorescence,” says Loeff on the telephone. “You can use this technique to see the interactions that a protein undergoes in real time. UZH is very strong in structural biology and use another technique to look at proteins at atomic level. I hope to couple these two techniques so that I can carry out functional structure studies in the future.”

‘We hope to discover new tools such as CRISPR’

“We will research the different immune systems of bacteria and, in doing so, hope to discover new tools such as CRISPR. There are probably dozens of CRISPR-like genetic tools that we do not yet know about.”

The granting of the Rubicon had nothing to do with Loeff’s choice of the UZH – that was decided earlier. But it does give him the chance to stay there for at least two years. On top of this, he says that “I am bringing my own funding with me. This gives me more freedom.”

21% honoured

Seventeen young doctors received a Rubicon to go abroad. This is often an important step in their careers, says an NWO research funder. Loeff was the only recipient from TU Delft. In total there were 81 applications, 21% of which were honoured. Every year, NWO supports about 60 young researchers in three rounds to an amount of EUR 7 million.

Mechanistic studies into bacterial immune systems
Dr L. (Luuk) Loeff (m), Delft University of Technology ->Switzerland, University of Zurich, Department of Biochemistry, 24 months

Bacterial immune systems contain useful functions, such as the cutting of DNA, which can be used for clinical and biotechnological applications. The researcher will characterise the molecular mechanisms of new immune systems and uncover possible commercial applications of these proteins.

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25 October 2019

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