Utrecht coordinates collaboration in life sciences: 32 million euro for two large-scale research facilities

Two programmes coordinated by Utrecht University, both of which are directly linked to Instruct, have received financing from NWO to set up large-scale research facilities. The projects ‘uNMR-NL’ and ‘Proteins @ Work’, in which various Dutch research institutes collaborate, receive 18,5 and 13,5 million euro, respectively. This was announced by State Secretary Zijlstra of OCW and Jos Engelen, chairman of NWO, this afternoon in Utrecht. The participating partners will make state-of-the-art technology, equipment and expertise in the field of the life sciences available to other researchers in the Netherlands and the funding firmly reinforces the link between the Netherlands and the ESFRI project Instruct.

In total, five programmes in the Netherlands receive financing from NWO within the National Road Map for Large-scale Research Facilities, for which 80 million euro was made available.

An ultra-high field NMR facility for the Netherlands (uNMR-NL)

In the new uNMR-NL facility, researchers will use 1.2 GHz magnetic nuclear resonance (NMR) and MR Imaging (MRI) to study the origin of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, to identify new potential drugs, to develop new materials for batteries and solar cells and to enhance the production of crops and food quality. “The facility that is being set up will contain a new magnet that is stronger than ever before in NMR and MRI”, says Marc Baldus, professor at the Bijvoet Center of Utrecht University and coordinator of the project. “This will open up entirely new ways of research, for example to study complete cells at the level of individual atoms.” uNMR-Nl is a collaboration between Utrecht University, the Radboud University Nijmegen, Leiden University, Wageningen University, the Eindhoven University of Technology and TI-COAST. 

Proteins @ Work

The Proteins@Work facility will make high-level technology, equipment and expertise for studying proteins in cells and tissues available to the biological and biomedical researchers in the Netherlands. The facility is of great benefit to Dutch Life Sciences and, in particular, will aid in the prevention and diagnosis of disease. “We work with everybody who wants to understand how proteins work, for example how proteins can cause disease, but also how stem cells can develop into healthy organs”, says Albert Heck, the initiator of Proteins @ Work. “Proteins are the essential workhorses in cells and to understand life, we need to know how proteins work together.” The Proteins @ Work programme is a collaboration between Utrecht University, the UMC Utrecht, the Hubrecht Institute, the Erasmus MC Rotterdam and the Netherlands Cancer Institute and builds upon the Netherlands Proteomics Centre and the European large-scale proteomics facility, PRIME-XS.

This landmark support for large scale research facilities through uNMR-NL and Proteins@Work will enable the Netherlands to offer access to very high specification technology for structural cell biology applications to Europeans researchers through their Instruct membership. Instruct welcomes this initiative in the Netherlands and is keen to encourage and reinforce the development of national research infrastructure programmes where appropriate