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Meet our new guest researcher, Jan de Boer

Portrait of Jan de Boer
Jan de Boer is a full professor at the department of Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology. He is skilled in Stem Cells, Biomaterial Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.

Jan de Boer is a biologist at the department of Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands. His research interest is in the molecular complexity of cells and how molecular circuits are involved in cell and tissue function. His research is characterized by a holistic approach to both discovery and application, aiming at combining high throughput technologies, computational modeling and experimental cell biology, to streamline the wealth of biological knowledge to real clinical applications.

In spring 2024, he is an International Fellow at the Pufendorf IAS, working with the Theme Roadmap of Biomaterials 4.0.

What is your background and research interests?

My name is Jan de Boer, 53 years old, I am from a small town in the middle of the Netherlands, married to Madelon and father of four children. In my free time, I enjoy sailing, hiking in nature, and I like to read about history. I have worked in academia all my life except for a two years period, when I worked in a biotech company. I am a biologist from training, with a PhD in mouse genetics on a project related to ageing. Since 2002 I work in the field of biomedical engineering and have since collaborated a lot with engineers on finding new therapeutic strategies in the field of regenerative medicine. Eindhoven University of Technology is where I work, teach and do research, a great place with excellent science. Eindhoven is famous for the company Philips, the birthplace of the compact disc, and the company ASML, known for its chip machine production, is located in the region, which showcases the engineering spirit in this relatively small city. 

In the last 10 years, I focused on the interaction between the human body and medical implants. The question we try to solve is: “Can we improve the performance of medical implants, by changing the chemistry or surface topography of the implant surface?” I am fascinated by cells, little autonomous units which acts as super-complex molecular machines. Cells can respond to signals from the outside and based on that they can change their behavior. A cell can decide to change from a stem cell into a bone cell, from a quiet circulating white blood cell into a warrior attacking bacteria, or a skin cell to encapsulate an implant with a thick fibrous capsule. Which signals are responsible for that? How are the signals translated into action and how do groups of different cells act together to accomplish their task? 

As mentioned, cells are super-complex molecular machines and it takes a combination of big data and mechanistic modeling to dissect the mechanisms and to engineer better implants. So that’s the science we do: high throughput screening of biomaterial libraries and using omics technology to find surfaces and decipher their effects on cells. 

What are your plans as a guest researcher at the institute?

I do not have very concrete plans other than spending a lot of time talking to people about their work. I plan to get a complete picture of the people that work on the topic of our the Lund area On my to do list is to have a chat with all seven Lund scientists from the theme, and then to extract new names from them, list the topics we discuss and let those topics guide and inspire me to find new people, new research groups, companies, organizations. The good news is that I have a bit over three months here, so there is ample time to give things some good thought. 

How do you hope to benefit from your work with the Theme?

It is interesting for me to be at the start of something new. The topic of the theme “Biomaterials 4.0”, has been my topic of research for quite some time now, but this has organically grown. The work I will do at the Theme is an opportunity for me to see if the components I consider to be important to get a theme up and running, are indeed important. I see it as a kind of consultancy experiment. Also, I will take the opportunity to do a parallel assessment of my Eindhoven network. Which material scientists do we have, which companies are active? How do we collaborate? I am sure that I will learn valuable lessons from seeing how scientists in Lund organize, communicate and interact and use that to improve the impact we have in Eindhoven. 

What do you reckon your main contribution to the Theme will be?

Inspiration. The theme’s topic is dear to me, it offers the opportunity for great science, education and societal impact. And collaborating between disciplines is fun but something that needs attention and energy. I have been very lucky in my career to have met scientists who were not only very good in their field, for instance in microfabrication, data science, transcriptomics or polymer chemistry, but also wanted to learn about my passion for cells and to contribute to my dreams. I hope that I can inspire people in Lund to take a look at the work of their colleagues, and get excited by it. Shared passion is the way forward. 

Meet our international Fellows

Reed more about the Theme Roadmap of Biomaterials 4.0