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VUmc SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH Top of the bill in translational human health and life sciences VUmc is a university medical center, closely associated with VU University Amsterdam. Its core objectives are to deliver patient care in close association with scientific research, academic teaching & postgraduate training.

VUmc research focuses on human health and life sciences. It is organised into five major themes: ➔ oncology ➔ neurosciences ➔ cardiovascular disease ➔ movement sciences ➔ public health, primary care & long-term care Research in an international context research is strongly translational: from bench to bedside to society. ● VUmc participates in 64 projects funded out of the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) with a total funding of approximately 25 million euros. ● In 2013, VUmc was awarded a total of 80.3 million euros in external research funding. ● With 26% success rate in grant applications, VUmc is above the European average. ● Between 2008 and 2012, VUmc published 8,113 interna tional scientific articles. By the end of 2013 these papers were cited 107,683 times. VUmc also produces between 100 and 150 PhD graduates each year.




Scientific publications


● VUmc

PhD Theses


Scientific positions (FTE)

80.3 million euros

Prof Johannes Brug: ‘One service point, bringing research from lab to society’

Total value of research grants obtained


Citations 2008 - 2013




Public-private partnerships

‘Translational Research usually means: bringing science from the laboratory bench to the bedside, and back’, Professor Johannes Brug explains. ‘At VUmc we take this one step further. Our goal is bench to bedside to society. We want to test, implement and disseminate our discoveries in human health and life sciences.’ Multidisciplinary collaboration ‘To this end, we collaborate very closely with the natural and social sciences, our neighbors on campus. We organize, plan and conduct our research together in interdisciplinary research institutes.’ Human health and life sciences ‘While our ambition is to do real translational research, we cannot cover everything. We therefore selected five focal areas of prime importance to the international health care and research agenda. All are highly relevant to our ageing society, with its increasing prevalence of chronic disease. VUmc’s focal areas are: oncology, cardiovascular disease, neurosciences, movement sciences, and public health. We have organized our research effort in five research institutes. Together these research institutes cover our main campus theme – ‘Human Health and Life Sciences’ – in which we cooperate with the natural and social sciences.’

VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam

MISSION: to prevent and cure cancer and immunological diseases, and to increase the survival rate. Focus of research: early diagnostics, personalized treatment and quality of life. RESEARCH PROGRAMS Oncogenesis covers viral oncogenesis, progression and early diagnosis, as well as genetic predis足 position and cancer genes. Immunopathogenesis covers both fundamental and pre-clinical research into the immunological processes underlying homeostasic control, in relation with inflammatory diseases and cancer. Disease profiling we want to identify new determinants for the diagnosis, prognosis and tailored treatment of immunologica and oncological diseases.



Scientific staff (FTE) PhD students excluded


Innovative therapy covers targeted therapy for development of personalized medicine, including radio足 therapy, surgery and systemic therapy, as well as immunotherapy. Quality of life encompasses research within the field of quality of life.

PhD students (FTE)


PhD theses

Professor TANJA DE GRUIJL: ‘Cancer Immunotherapy is going places!’


Scientific publications

16.9 million euros


After years of being frowned upon by ‘mainstream’ oncology researchers, immunotherapy of cancer is set to transform the field. These are exciting times for Tanja de Gruijl, Professor of Translational Tumor Immunology. ‘The clinical successes achieved recently demonstrate that by taking off their molecular brakes, primed antitumor immune cells can attack and kill tumor cells in a highly efficient fashion. This can lead to durable tumor regression in patients.’ A matter of ‘push and pull’ Tumors have developed means to subvert and escape the immune response. Prof. de Gruijl explains: ‘Getting an effective immune response against cancer started is a matter of push and pull. On the one hand we need to activate and re-awaken (‘push’) the antitumor immune response; on the other hand we need to alleviate tumor-­imposed immune suppression (‘pull’).’ Tight links between lab and clinic Innovative research in her lab aims to apply these strategies locally, in tumors and their draining lymph nodes, to induce lasting immunity with minimal side effects. ‘The VUmc-CCA provides a unique and perfect setting to rapidly translate our findings to the patient. And that’s what it’s all about.’

Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam

MISSION: to study the brain and its disease mechanisms through an integrative approach running from molecule to bedside.


RESEARCH PROGRAMS Brain disease NCA studies mechanisms involved in neuropsychiatric disorders, dementia and white matter diseases, through an integrative approaches running from molecule to bedside. Brain imaging NCA aims at delivering proof-of-concept for radically new approaches in the field of detecting brain function and the early diagnosis of brain disease. Brain mechanisms NCA brings together researchers that focus on the elucidation of the mechanisms that underlie brain functions and dysfunctions. Examples are: how signal transduction networks orchestrate cellular functions, how mutations in the components of such networks lead to disease, how neuronal networks orchestrate behavior and how dysregulation of their activity leads to aberrant behavior.


Scientific staff (FTE) PhD students excluded


PhD students (FTE)



PhD theses

Professor JEROEN GEURTS: ‘The true cause of MS?’


Scientific publications

23.6 million euros


‘In all humility, I think at Neuroscience Campus we are working on a paradigm-shift in MS research.’ As Professor of Translational Neuroscience Research, Jeroen Geurts heads a group of scientists who are exploring the very fundamentals of multiple sclerosis. ‘MS is still considered to be an auto-immune disease.’ Not an immune deficiency ‘We have found, however, a number of changes in brain cells that precede the involvement of the immune system. For example, at an early stage of the disease, the myelin sheath around nerve cells seems to change. This could mean that the immune system, rather than being intrinsically deficient in some way, might instead be reacting to very subtle pathological changes in the brain.’ New therapeutic approach According to Prof. Geurts, these exciting findings will have no immediate impact on the treatment of patients. ‘Not yet! For the time being, we will have to continue suppressing MS patients’ immune systems. However, in the long run, this approach may “just” be used to relieve symptoms. Through the joint efforts of the various groups on the Neuroscience Campus, we hope to find a more fundamental therapeutic approach that tackles the true cause of MS.’

Impact of VUmc scientific research VUmc’s Mean Normalized Citation Score (MNCS, which shows how often VUmc publications are cited relative to the world average in the scientific fields in which they are published) has steadily increased over the past VU University

decade. The MNCS indicator 2009-2012 is 1.74, which means that VUmc

Medical Center

publications are cited 74% more often than the world average, and that

VUmc’s scientific impact score is the second highest of all Dutch university medical centers (UMC's).

Published by VU University


Medical Center Postbox 7057

Number of scientific publications: 6,926

1007 MB Amsterdam

Number of citations: 80,742

MNCS-indicator: 1.74 Ranking among Dutch UMC's: 2nd

Knowledge transfer and societal impact By providing support in obtaining licenses and patents, and by actively bringing these to interested third parties, VUmc promotes entrepreneurship and the exploitation of knowledge. Innovation Exchange Amsterdam (IXA) supports valorization, by helping to establish innovative public - private partnerships, tailored to the demands of individual research institutes.

Institute for Cardiovascular Research

MISSION: to search for scientific solutions to cardiovascular disease.


RESEARCH PROGRAMS Heart the normal heart and the transition to heart failure are studied at the molecular and cellular level, at the cardiac muscle level and at the level of the heart as a whole, in terms of muscle contraction and pump function. The major aim is to reduce the suffering from cardiac failure. Vessels long-term vascular dysfunction, mostly of unknown origin, is studied in diverse pathologies. Focus areas of research are diabetes mellitus and obesity, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and atherosclerosis.


Scientific staff (FTE) PhD students excluded


PhD students (FTE)


PhD theses


Scientific publications

12.8 million euros


Dr NAZHA HAMDANI: ‘New opportunities for heart-failure patients’ Dr Nazha Hamdani combines her job at ICaRVU with a position at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. ‘In both of my jobs, I am working on the problem of diastolic heart failure, which affects half of all heart failure patients.’ Viagra for the heart ‘We have found a promising mechanism for the treatment of such patients, whose survival rates have shown no improvement in recent years. It appears that diastolic heart failure patients lack a specific enzyme that causes the giant protein titin in the myocardial cells to relax. We discovered that this enzyme can be activated with the drug sildenafil, commonly known as Viagra. So the evidence indicates that this enzyme can be influenced by a readily available, low-toxicity pharmaceutical agent, which may provide these patients with a novel therapeutic opportunity.’ Fundamental solutions ‘Working at ICaR-VU provides me with the challenging opportunity to get involved in the forefront of a highly relevant clinical problem. Up until now, all that we have been able to do for this large group of heart failure patients is to relieve their symptoms. Now, this leading research project is finally opening the door to a more fundamental solution.’

MOVE Research Institute Amsterdam MISSION: to conduct excellent scientific research on human movement and the human movement system (including the musculoskeletal system, neural motor system and supporting physiological systems) in both healthy individuals and patients, with the long-term aim to understand, improve, maintain and/or repair motor functioning.



RESEARCH PROGRAMS Regenerative medicine repairs damage to the locomotor system resulting from disposition, ageing, inadequate nutrition, incorrect movement, trauma, loading habits, and disease. Rehabilitation seeks to clarify the underlying mechanisms of rehabilitation in patients with neurological and musculoskeletal diseases. Sport aims to reveal the fundamental processes by which the neuromuscular, cardiovascular, perceptual and motor control systems adapt to physical activity. This knowledge is used to optimize the development of talented young athletes and to boost their peak performance.

Scientific staff (FTE) PhD students excluded


PhD students (FTE)


PhD theses


Scientific publications

Professor JAAP HARLAAR: ‘Using virtual reality to treat movement disorders’ Straight from the computer games industry, Jaap Harlaar uses a virtual reality lab to study and diagnose movement disorders in both children and the elderly. From spasticity to arthritis ‘As we are able to treat more and more diseases, the number of people with chronic long-lasting problems increases’, Prof. Harlaar says. ‘Walking problems are one of the most profound concerns for everyone, greatly affecting their quality of life.’ Jaap Harlaar works mainly with children, primarily those who suffer from spasticity, but he also studies elderly individuals with MS or arthritis. His research team develops biomechanical models of different movement disorders, to enable them to specifically target their treatments. Virtual reality To this end, Prof. Harlaar uses a state-of-the-art virtual reality lab which originates from the compu­ ter games industry. ‘Rehabilitation medicine and the study of movement disorders do not fit into a single medical diagnosis’, he says. ‘The patients come from all over the medical spectrum. MOVE’s multidisciplinary approach contributes in no small measure to the efficient development of treatments aimed at improving people’s quality of life.’

EMGO+ Institute for Health and Care Research MISSION: to generate, conduct and publish excellent research of international standing to improve public and occupational health, mental health, primary care, rehabilitation and long-term care. RESEARCH PROGRAMS Lifestyle, Obesity and Diabetes aims to curb the obesity and diabetes epidemics by the identification of the primary lifestyle and biological determinants and by evaluation of efficient ways to improve lifestyle both as a way to prevent disease and in the context of chronic disease management. Mental Health contributes to a better evidence-base for the prevention and treatment of mental disorders in order to improve mental health in the population.



Scientific staff (FTE) PhD students excluded


Quality of Care aims to improve the quality of prevention programs, health care services and the effectiveness of health communication. Musculoskeletal Health aims to generate and apply knowledge about the development and lifelong maintenance of a healthy musculoskeletal system.

PhD students (FTE)


PhD theses

Prof. MAI CHIN A PAW: ‘Research on couch potatoes from lab to real life’


Smartphones and tablet computers drastically increased ‘screen time’ of western children.

Scientific publications

At EMGO+, Prof. Mai Chin A Paw (appointed as University Research Chair) is looking for clues to potential health risks, and of ways of getting kids moving again. ‘We want to examine the potential health risks of prolonged sitting, independent of physical activity. We are currently planning an experimental study to explore the acute effects of prolonged sitting, and to determine whether these effects can be attenuated by short periods of activity’, Prof. Chin A Paw says.

27 million euros


Maximum sitting time Many countries already have a standard for the minimum amount of activity in a healthy life style. ‘It may be necessary to add a maximum standard for sitting time to that’, Mai Chin A Paw suggests. ‘Just one limited period of physical activity per day may not compensate for many hours of watching TV or using the computer during the rest of the day.’ Tools for prevention ‘I am thrilled about the potential of investigating this problem using a range of different methodologies. In collaboration with many experts on longitudinal dataanalysis, pediatric endocrinology, and clinimetrics at EMGO+, we hope to be able to provide the tools for innovative preventive interventions.’

Vumc Scientific Research (versie 2015)  
Vumc Scientific Research (versie 2015)