The Laboratory of Medical Biochemistry has the following mission statement:

“unraveling the structure-function relationship of proteins with a relevance in human (patho)physiology, focusing on target finding, characterization and clinical applications”

We aim to fulfill this mission statement by employing a highly interdisciplinary research approach with a strong emphasis on placing the results within a biological/clinical context.

This statement is also the basis for the mission we carry out with regards to education. 

Application of our mission statement to research

The basic research interest is always to find novel targets and unravel the structure-function relationship of target proteins within a given pathophysiological context. The current research topics are listed below together with the principal investigators (PIs) who are spearheading them:

  • Prof. dr. Ingrid De Meester (laboratory spokesperson): the structure-function relationship of serine proteases with an emphasis on inflammation.

  • Prof. dr. Dirk Hendriks: target finding and characterization of novel human basic carboxypeptidases and their clinical applications towards novel treatment regimens for patients with thrombo-embolic disease, focusing on ischaemic stroke.

  • Prof. dr. ir. Yann Sterckx: the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in host-parasite interactions.
    "The main research theme is to study the structural basis of host-parasite interactions with the following mission statement: “to unravel the structure-function relationship of proteins operating at the host-parasite interface with the aim of gaining fundamental, mechanistic insights into basic infectious disease biology and use this knowledge for the design of novel diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines”. An important part of this endeavor is to firmly establish the links between molecular structure, infection, and immunity. The parasites of interest are Plasmodium (malaria), Trypanosoma (trypanosomiasis) and Leishmania (leishmaniasis).”

All of the above-mentioned research topics are driven by our primary mission statement and employ the same technology platform comprised of a broad range of expertises. Within our group, the variety of research topics – based on the identification of the structure and function for human proteins and enzymes - has an added value to the open research environment we attempt to create. We believe this stimulates a highly interdisciplinary approach to answer our research questions and leads to cross-fertilisation in terms of problem-solving and troubleshooting.

We also strongly experience that tackling a variety of research topics based on a joint mission statement with a centralized technology platform places us in a strong position to initiate and maintain fruitful scientific collaborations with internal (embedded within the department and faculty), national, and international research partners. The expertise provided by our collaborators is typically complementary to ours, which allows us to perform research in a highly interdisciplinary setting. Apart from (inter)national collaborations with purely academic groups, we collaborate extensively with major pharmaceutical companies and biotech, as well as with clinical researchers in academic and general hospitals. This mix of contacts fuels fundamental and translational research as well as the education we provide.

Application of our mission statement to education

As part of our mission statement, we believe in a strong link between research and education. Our group members are involved in the education of pharmaceutical scientists at all levels, ranging from Bachelor to Advanced Master. This education is provided under various forms: lecturing, practical guidance of Bachelor and Master students for theses, and coordinating Advanced Master programs. In addition, our contacts with international research partners allow students to pursue parts of their education abroad. By exposing students to the open, interdisciplinary and international research environment of our group and combining this with guidance of high quality, we contribute to and provide student-centered, competence-oriented education with a hands-on approach. The positions of our PhD students in leading functions in the laboratories of major hospitals and in industry reflect the value of this approach.

Technology platform

The technology platform present in the Laboratory of Medical Biochemistry consists of a wide range of techniques that enable us to probe the various aspects of protein structure and function.

  • Protein production: a wide array of systems for the recombinant production of the target proteins including bacteria (E. coli), yeast (Pichia pastoris), insect cells (Sf9, Drosophila S2), Leishmania tarentolae, and mammalian cells (HEK293F and Expi).
  • Protein purification: three different Akta platforms and the availability of various chromatography columns.
  • Protein quality control: Thermofluor, CD spectroscopy, SEC-MALLS.
  • Enzyme assay development  (in complex biological matrices or with purified enzymes): development and validation of HPLC based assays, kinetic assays using spectrophotometric and fluorescent techniques.
  • Development of functional protein assays in complex biological samples allowing the use of these assays in phase I, II and III clinical trials.
  • Interaction studies: grating-coupled interferometry (GCI) and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC).
  • Structure determination techniques: X-ray crystallography, small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and combinations thereof.