Just before Christmas, three talented scientists received good news: they are receiving a personal research grant from the Dutch Heart Foundation. Ilze Bot of the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research is one of those scientists. She will receive an Established Investigator grant of 650,000 euros. This will enable her to carry out research into arteriosclerosis for five years. Bot: ‘This is important because new drugs to reduce the effects of arteriosclerosis are urgently needed.’
Prevention of heart and brain infarcts
When it comes to arteriosclerosis, you may quickly think of fats, such as cholesterol. But the immune system also plays an important role. Bot is going to use the latest techniques to examine a certain cell of our immune system: the mast cell. Normally these cells do a good job; they effectively kill bacteria and viruses. But in the arteries, they can aggravate calcification.
That is why Bot hopes to find a way to prevent mast cells from entering the arteries. ‘In short, I’m going to look for ways to prevent the harmful effects of mast cells,’ she tells a local news station. Hopefully, this can be a good basis for a new drug to prevent infarcts in the future.
Top scientists desperately needed
‘With these research grants we give top talent the opportunity to develop to the maximum as a scientist, and to conduct important innovative research,’ says Floris Italianer, director of the Heart Foundation. ‘We desperately need these people to stop the sharp rise in the number of cardiovascular patients, and to provide patients with better treatment.’
The three scientists were selected from 33 candidates after a rigorous selection procedure. National and international experts critically assessed all applications. The researchers with the best project proposal were allowed to present their plan in front of a committee of professors. The committee assessed the candidates and their research, and chose the three winners.
About the Dekker grants
The personal Dekker scholarships were established over thirty years ago by Dr Dekker, at the time medical director of the Heart Foundation. There are six types of Dekker scholarships, for different phases in the career of scientists.
Last summer, ten scientists received Dekker scholarships in the first four categories. Now the scholarships have been awarded in the last two categories: Junior Clinical Scientist and Established Investigator.