Poster awards for Medicinal Chemists Raimond Heukers and Timo De Groof at FIGON Dutch Medicines Days

On the Dutch Medicines Days, a conference organized by the FIGON (Federatie voor Innovatief Geneesmiddelonderzoek Nederland), Raimond Heukers and Timo De Groof have both been awarded a poster prize.

10/16/2017 | 3:13 PM

Raimond Heukers received the poster prize in the category “Receptor Pharmacology and signaling” for his poster “Inhibition of GPCR activity by inverse agonistic nanobodies”.

Heukers is working as a postdoc within the department of Medicinal Chemistry, where he is involved in the NWO Vici project (Prof. Smit), NWO TOP-PUNT project 7 ways to 7TMR modulation (Profs Leurs, Smit) and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie ITN project ONCORNET (Prof. Smit). Heukers established the VU-Nanobody platform for the development of lama-derived antibody-fragments, so-called nanobodies, targeting and modulating different types of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). At the FIGON conference, Heukers presented three examples of nanobodies that inhibit the oncogenic chemokine receptors CXCR4, ACKR3/CXCR7 and US28 in different types of cancer.

Timo De Groof, PhD student within the Medicinal Chemistry group under supervision of Prof. Martine Smit, received the KNCV Farmacochemie Poster prize in the category “Medicinal Chemistry” for his poster “Identification and characterization of nanobodies targeting HCMV-encoded US28”.

The human cytomegalovirus is believed to play a role in the progression of glioblastoma and encodes four G protein-coupled receptors of which US28 is one of the viral chemokine receptors. US28 is known to activate multiple oncogenic pathways and enhances tumor growth in vivo. To further elucidate the role of US28 and to investigate the therapeutic potential, De Groof developed nanobodies targeting this viral chemokine receptor. Different classes of nanobodies, inhibiting US28 signaling with distinct modes of action, have been identified and are further being characterized as part of the NWO VICI project of Prof. Martine Smit which focuses on the contribution of viral receptor proteins in brain cancer.