Research Interests

Bacteria, fungi and plants produce large numbers of small molecules, a range of which is applied medicinally as antibiotics, chemotherapeutics, cholesterol-lowering agents and immunosuppressants. I develop computationally empowered strategies for the discovery of novel drugs from such molecules, which exploit the enormous amount of hereditary information from these life forms that has recently become available through new technologies. This allows the exploration of the systems that produce molecules with medicinal potential throughout thousands of life forms, and the study of their evolution. This knowledge can be applied by redesigning high-potential biosynthetic pathways on a computer and inserting them into engineered bacteria.

From August 2013 to February 2015, I worked at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, funded by a Rubicon fellowship from the Dutch Science Foundation NWO. In the group of Frank Oliver Glöckner, I developed a data standard for the description of biosynthetic gene clusters, the Minimum Information about a Biosynthetic Gene cluster (MIBiG). This standard will make it possible to centralize and integrate all the information available on these fascinating systems from the perspectives of biochemistry, genomics and ecology.

In March 2015, I started my job at Wageningen University. Here, I will work on new computational algorithms for the identification of biosynthetic pathways in multiple kinds of organisms (including plants), and on integrating various kinds of omics data in interactive databases. Moreover, I will develop ecologically informed approaches for the effective (meta)genomic mining of novel compounds from the environment, and study the evolution of biosynthetic pathways and pathway repertoires.

NWO Veni Grant

July 2015

I received the happy news that I got awarded a Veni grant by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

The title of the project is "A systematic computational genomic analysis of plant secondary metabolic pathways."

My PhD thesis

August 2013

After four years of hard work, my PhD thesis is finished and has been printed.

The title of the thesis is "Medicines from Microbes: exploiting the power of computational genomics for natural products discovery and engineering."

The defence will take place on September 27th, at 11:00 AM in the Academiegebouw of the University of Groningen.

NWO Rubicon grant: a video

May 2013

Recently, the communication office of the University of Groningen made a nice movie about my research, on the occasion of winning the Rubicon award from NWO.