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!
Biomedical Sciences MSc
Diepenbeek labs, BE
Neuronal iPSCs, Organ-on-Chip
With InnoSer since
Our Neurology study associate, Teun Van Nunen, began his exciting career at InnoSer two years ago. Teun has contributed to multiple projects such as Transcend, a drug development platform for Parkinson’s disease, and PDX/O, an anticancer drug screening platform consisting of Patient Derived Organoid technology and Patient Derived Xenograft models. However, his current focus is on MINDMAP: an innovative Brain-on-Chip technology. This in vitro model will provide high-resolution readouts of neuronal network activity at single-cell level and will be offered as a service for compound testing for AD (Alzheimer’s Disease).
Teun’s day starts with a car drive from Eindhoven to Diepenbeek, followed by an energizing morning coffee. His day outlook is quite varied, switching between the office and the laboratory. The first thing he does upon arriving is to take a look at the neuronal cells in the morning “I want to make sure that they look healthy, by checking overall cell morphology and adherence to the surface and whether the culture medium is clear-free from infection. Finally, if the cells require medium change, I do this after the check-up.” He often cooperates with our Study Associate Sarah Aerts and Research Associate Pascal Vrielynck in laboratory tasks or brainstorm sessions.
As the project manager for the MINDMAP project, Teun handles the design of experimental plans working closely with our lab director Yanick Fanton. In practice, while developing and optimizing the Brain-on-Chip model, he tries to establish a bridge between the biological and technological basis to integrate the scaffold. The MINDMAP model will integrate 3D cultures of human stem cell-derived neurons in a microfluidic chip. “The platform must be biocompatible. For instance, by combining hydrogel with specific neuronal cells, a 3D system that resembles the soft brain tissue can be created”.
To analyze the model phenotype, he performs Immunofluorescence stainings and analyses neurodegenerative readouts. “The main readout from the MINDMAP is calcium imaging, as this is expected to be altered in cells with Alzheimer mutation. We would then like to evaluate whether there is a statistically relevant difference between the AD model and isogenic control, especially in compound testing.” In addition to performing the practical experiments, Teun organizes regular meetings with the partners to ensure that they are up-to-date and discuss recent developments within the MINDMAP project.
During his Bachelor of Biology and Applied Medical Laboratory Technology, Teun became passionate about creating in vitro scaffolds: “In this ever-changing field, it is fascinating to work towards creating a technology that mimics biological systems and use it to investigate processes that occur in vivo!”. He acknowledges that this is often a complex task, however, this is one of the most exciting aspects of his job “We look for shifts in the phenotype during proof-of-concept studies, while brainstorming and working towards standardization of systems, which is quite rewarding.”
“I am glad I got in touch with InnoSer’s CEO Jan Bartels at the end of my Master’s degree. I wanted to do research that could have an impact on patients’ lives, which was aligned with InnoSer’s goal to accelerate preclinical research!” Teun’s Bachelor minor in International Sales also highlighted his affinity with science-business and teamwork environments. “Working together with people with different personalities results in a strong and dynamic environment, where we can develop bolder ideas!” he explained, appreciating the mindset and diversity within the company. Teun will also be able to discuss experimental ideas with a new team member: Nida, a master student, will do a 9-month internship at Diepenbeek with a focus on the MINDMAP and TRANSCEND projects.
At the end of the day, after checking those last boxes in his to-do list and making sure everything is in order at the laboratory, Teun drives back home. As a cooking master, he loves to cook a delicious meal for dinner whenever there is an opportunity, after which he takes his dog out for a walk.
Teun completed his MSc in Biomedical Sciences at Maastricht University in 2019 and has acquired extensive experience and knowledge in in vitro systems during his internships at the Research Group Microsystems and Neuro-nanoscale Engineering at T/U Eindhoven. In addition, Teun completed his master thesis in the Complex Tissue Regeneration group at MERLN Institute in Maastricht, where he worked on an angiogenesis stimulating functionalized electrospun scaffold. This month, he completes two years of great contributions to multiple projects at InnoSer, such as PDX/O, Transcend and MINDMAP. His business-oriented outlook and specialized laboratory skills are an ideal fit with the dynamic and innovative perspective of the company.