A Personal Touch of Marien de Jonge

Jonge de, Marien 2016.jpg

Please learn more about colleagues in our "Personal Touch" series setting employees in the spotlight. A light-hearted manner to learn about the colleagues you know and those you don't!.

This week: Marien de Jonge






1. Name, nationality, current function & department?
My name is Marien de Jonge, I am Dutch and appointed head of the Laboratory of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, which is part of the department of Pediatrics. My research theme is: Infectious Diseases and Global Health.

2. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up? Can you tell us something about your childhood years. 
There was a time that I wanted to become a farmer and I worked a lot on different type of farms in Zuid-Holland and Zeeland, where I grew up. I was always outside and my fascination for biology came naturally. Later, this idea faded away and I lost a clear plan on what to become. All I wanted was to do something useful with my life, solving problems and creating something new. I have always had a broad interest in many subjects, but attempting to reveal a biological mechanism, trying to get to the bottom to get a detailed understanding, that really attracted me.

3. What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why did you choose that study/those studies? 
I studied biology at the VU in Amsterdam and specialized in molecular microbiology, because I was fascinated by microbes, the most important, diverse and ancient life forms on our planet. I obtained my PhD at the University Amsterdam, where I was appointed at the medical faculty, department of medical microbiology (AMC) in the group of the late Prof. Jacob Dankert. I worked on Neisseria meningitidis, the causative agent of meningitis and sepsis. I studied the structure-function relationship of a family of its adhesion proteins and the use of these proteins for vaccine development. I did most of my studies at the RIVM (National Institute of Public Health and the Environment) in Bilthoven where I was supervised by dr. Peter van der Ley. Although I was fundamentally interested in understanding microbial physiology and host-pathogen interactions, I had chosen for this PhD project because it contributed to the improvement of knowledge on protection against a very severe infection.

Right after my PhD I became post-doc at Institut Pasteur in Paris, in the group of Prof. Stewart Cole where I worked on the functional study of proteins secreted by a newly discovered secretion system in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, ESX-1, and the application of this knowledge to develop an improved BCG vaccine.

4. The RIMLS motto is ‘to understand molecular mechanisms of disease’. What does this mean for you?
Our research is focused on the interactions between bacterial and/or viral pathogens and the immunologically inexperienced host (child). A better molecular understanding of the host response and the way pathogens adapt to the host is at the basis of improvement and development  of vaccines and diagnostics.

5. Which international scientist inspires/inspired you the most? Please give a motivation why.
I admire many current day scientists, it is difficult to chose one. Therefore I want to go back into history and chose Louis Pasteur, one of the founding fathers of microbiology. He is an example of a great scientist and a man with a clear mission. I admire him because he accomplished so much in his life. Being a chemical scientist driven by curiosity he created a new scientific discipline, and contributed very fundamentally to our understanding of essential biological principles, from molecular chirality to protection against diseases by immunization with attenuated disease causing organisms. A lot of his work started with the aim to solve a real problem (wine souring, silk worm disease, anthrax and rabies infections). He showed that fundamental and applied science are strongly intertwined. On top of that he was very good in disseminating his findings to the general public.

6. Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?
When I was post-doctorate fellow at Institut Pasteur in Paris I worked on a newly discovered secretion system involved in the virulence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We found the biochemical explanation for phagolysosomal escape of M. tuberculosis, while until then it was believed that this bacterium remained in the phagosome. Our findings were corroborated by more extensive electron microscopy studies.

Furthermore, I am proud on the discoveries of our group related to host response-based diagnostics in the context of RSV infections, severity of disease, pathogenesis and viral-bacterial interactions. But also on the recent discoveries related to antigen-specific correlates of protection in the context of Bordetella pertussis vaccination and to novel vaccine formulations that were found to evoke strong protection against Streptococcus pneumoniae.

7. Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform? 
This is a difficult question, as I can think of many different experiments (or large studies). But I would spend a part of the money on the continuation of our work on the outer membrane based intranasal vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae to be able to test it in the human colonization model developed by our colleagues at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Furthermore, I would like to invest a significant amount to extend our work on neonatal immune development, on respiratory immunology and host-pathogen interactions.

8. What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)?
I consider myself quite organized, you can find small piles of paper and notes on my desk, but generally all in a planned order.

9. Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her? 
Frank van Leeuwen (Head of the Laboratory of Pediatric Oncology). Question: what would be your advice to students who consider to do their PhD?

10. You are nominated by Sacha van Hijum. What is your answer to this question?
Question: how does your previous industrial experience benefit your work at Radboudumc?

During my position as project leader in the R&D department of Nobilon – Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), where I worked on the pre-clinical development of a vaccine against Chlamydia trachomatis I learned how to lead a research team. That was a very valuable experience. However I have to admit that there are also disadvantages of spending some years in an industrial environment. It has been quite difficult to re-adapt to the academic conditions. On top of that I had a ‘publication gap’ of a few years, which makes it nearly impossible to get personal grants. For this reason I focused on consortium grants, mostly public-private partnerships, where my industrial experience was an advantage, as for most of those projects, collaboration with industrial partners was required.

11. What type of person are you, quick insights:
a) Mac or  PC:
b) Theater or Cinema:
c) Dine out or dine in: 
Dine out
d) Ferrari or Fiat:
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic:
f) Culture or Nature:

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