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Dutch National Research Agenda supports five ‘Leiden’ public-private projects

The Dutch National Research Agenda announced today that it will provide 17 research projects with a total of 61 million euros in funding. Researchers from Leiden University or the Leiden University Medical Center are involved in five of the projects. All of the projects are interdisciplinary partnerships between public and private parties that want to bring societal and scientific breakthroughs within reach.

1) Sticky droplets instead of chemical pesticides

Professor of Evolutionary Plant Ecology, Peter Klinkhamer, had been looking for some time for chemists who could help him put an idea into practice: to reproduce the sticky droplets that some plants release from their leaf hairs to repel enemies such as thrips and other insects. ‘Then I turned on the TV at the end of 2017, and De Nationale Wetenschapsquiz was on. Marleen Kamperman had just introduced herself as a candidate. She said she worked with sticky substances and was inspired by nature. I sent her a mail immediately, and we have now been awarded this grant.’

Chemical insecticides are increasingly being banned because of their ecological impact. Sticky droplets that are harmless and degradable could prove to be an excellent alternative. Klinkhamer: ‘The first results are positive. I hope that in one or two years’ time we will have droplets that can go into production. We then want to start reproducing the volatile substances that the droplets release into the environment. These substances are poisonous to the natural enemies of the plants or they attract the natural enemies of the plants’ natural enemies. Ladybirds, for instance, that come and eat aphids.’

Marleen Kamperman, who is now Professor of Materials Science in Groningen, also involved chemists from Wageningen in the project, which will now receive a grant of around 1.6m. ‘The knowledge that each of us possesses is essential to our goal.’

In addition, Aeres University of Applied Sciences will help bring the team into contact with farmers, and the businesses involved in the project will bring the product to market.

Project leader: Prof. Peter Klinkhamer (Leiden University)
Participating institutions: University of Groningen, Wageningen University & Research, Aeres Group, Van Iperen, Holland Biodiversity, Holland Green Machine

2) One step ahead of virus outbreaks through risk analysis

The Netherlands has a relatively dense population of people, livestock and other animals. Its watery landscape (mosquitoes!) and busy international trade hub make it vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks. This consortium wants to understand if and how changes in climate, landscape, water management and travel increase the risk of outbreaks. This will help ensure that we are better prepared.

Read more about this project, in which Leiden Assistant Professor of Ecology, Maarten Schrama, is involved

Project leader: Prof. M.P.G. Koopmans (Erasmus Medical Center)
Participating institutions: Utrecht University, Universitair Medical Center Utrecht, Wageningen University & Research, Leiden University, Leiden University Medical Center, Radboud University Medical Center Nijmegen, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Avans University of Applied Science, Deltares, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the Red Cross, Sanquin, Technasium and Netherlands Centre for Monitoring of Vectors 

3) The opioid epidemic: causes, consequences and countermeasures

Opioids are useful and very strong painkillers, but they also have their downsides. They are drugs such as morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl. Their use in the Netherlands is increasing rapidly. To prevent an epidemic of problematic use such as in the US, the consortium will research the causes and consequences of this increased use, and will consider ways to reduce any problematic use.

Project leader: Prof. M.L. Bouvy (Utrecht University)
Participating institutions: Leiden University Medical Center, SIR Institute for Pharmacy Practice and Policy, Radboud University Medical Center Nijmegen, University Medical Center Utrecht, Canisius Wilhelmina Hospital, Sint Maartens Clinic, Dutch Royal Pharmacists’ Association, Medicines Evaluation Board, National Health Care Institute, Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction

4) Single-gene disorders that impair the prefrontal cortex

Single-gene disorders can cause severe developmental and behavioural problems. This consortium suspects that these disorders may impair the development of the prefrontal cortex. The researchers want to integrate neurobiological and clinical knowledge to help improve patient care.

Project leader: Dr S.M. Kolk (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Participating institutions: Leiden University, Leiden University Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Radboud University Medical Center, University Medical Center Utrecht, Scientific Volume Imaging, Sonidel Limited, Stemcell Technologies, Stevig/VvG, VGNetwerken, Centre for Human Drug Research

5) Quantum microscopy: a new tool for the future

Quantum technology has the potential to transform global industries and markets. It can make electrons and flows in quantum systems visible. This consortium is working with partners from industry on a quantum microscope that will use a diamond magnetic-field sensor to image the behaviour of electrons on the nanoscale, at both near absolute zero and room temperature.

Project leader: Dr T. van der Sar (Delft University of Technology)
Participating institutions: TNO Delft, Leiden University, Applied Nanolayers BV, Leiden Spin Imaging BV

Structural contribution to knowledge society

The aim of National Research Agenda research is to make a positive, structural contribution to the knowledge society of tomorrow, by addressing scientific and societal challenges together. This first round of funding for Research along Routes by Consortia (NWA-ORC) gives new shape to this aim.

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