To provide a range of innovative tools for accelerating drug development, InnoSer brings people from both scientific and business backgrounds together. With our interview series ‘A day in the life of’, let’s take a glimpse into what it is like to be part of this small but versatile and dynamic team!
PhD biomedical engineering
Neuronal cells, micro-/nano-fluidics, MATLAB
With InnoSer since
Alex wears two hats: One as a postdoctoral researcher in the Neuro-Nanoscale Engineering group of dr. Regina Luttge at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), and another as the Organ-on-Chip (OoC) product manager at InnoSer. While he cooks the microfluidics technologies at the Luttge kitchen, his work at InnoSer mainly entails the coordination of collaborative projects on OoC models for neurodegenerative diseases, with tasks including project management meetings, project planning, and financial reporting. He works closely with biomedical engineer Teun van Nunen, who is responsible for preparing cell cultures, and Marcel ter Veld, director of operations and services, for monitoring the project timeline, milestones and the progress on work packages.
The team is currently developing Brain-on-Chip (BoC) platform as part of MINDMAP, a Eurostars funded project (E!113501) within a multidisciplinary consortium that aims to provide a powerful in vitro tool for screening drugs against Alzheimer’s disease. BoC is a micro-scale model used for mimicking the 3D structural and functional environment of the human brain. Alex says, “BoC allows us to use healthy or patient human resources via induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology in a microenvironment with well defined analytical components, and in comparison to 2D models, it introduces more control and less heterogeneity between samples.”
Since the project began in October 2019, Alex and his colleagues built up the infrastructure to facilitate cell culture and BoC models, gathered resources from consortium partners, and they are working towards the integration of the separate components of the prototype. “Our next step will be to develop intelligent ways to get better predictors from results, such as those obtained from electrophysiological recordings and calcium imaging, and eventually, speed up drug screening processes.” The MINDMAP project will be concluded in 2022.
“We discuss the project progress with the people in the lab in biweekly meetings. Although I am based in Leiden, I also try to visit Diepenbeek, starting my day at the office as early as 7:30. So on those days, you know I’m one of the first to use the coffee machine. But I don’t mind, since this means I don’t get caught in traffic. It also allows me to leave early to spend time with my 2 kids, and have dinner together. They like helping with dinner preparations, as long as it’s not vegetables!”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Alex spent more time staying at home in the past months and on project coordination instead of working in the lab. “Luckily, we can focus on different stages of the project so we can minimize any delays. Though, it is of course much more motivating to be close to your colleagues. People at InnoSer have different backgrounds, and they are all passionate about their work, so our interactions can generate a lot of useful ideas.”
“Combining this team spirit with the fact that we have goals with huge impacts on patients makes my work very fulfilling on a personal level.” Alex says he is always hungry to learn more and to solve puzzles. The most challenging parts of his job are the ones he likes the most as well. “Making a fully functional product for customers by using multidisciplinary technologies is a great challenge. Together with experts in the field, we combine microfabrication, iPSC technology and AI. Understanding these components in depth and always keep improving them are great motivators.”
Alex completed a bachelor in Biomedical Engineering and a master in Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering, both at the TU/e. He then worked on in vitro brain models using micro- and nano-engineered neuronal cell networks as part of his PhD, also at TU/e. Alex now works part-time as a postdoctoral researcher, expanding on his work in Regina Luttge’s group, and oversees relevant developments for InnoSer’s Brain-on-Chip platform as product manager. He also enjoys Arduino DIY-projects and printing 3D resin structures, which he hopes may someday benefit work in the lab at InnoSer.