On the 1st of January, 2018, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) entered into partnership with the Netherlands Center for One Health (NCOH) on behalf of three of its research institutes: the Hubrecht Institute, the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO). Professor Jeroen den Hertog, who works as deputy director research at the Hubrecht Institute, has been positioned on the Executive Board of NCOH to represent the three KNAW institutes.

From Principal Investigator to Partner of NCOH

“A number of employees from a number of KNAW institutes were already working for NCOH, so the logical next step was to extend this to a partnership between the two organisations,” says Jeroen.

“The NIOO group led by Jos Raaijmakers has been actively involved with NCOH through Leiden University in particular.” Jeroen himself was already involved long before NCOH was founded through his work for the Hubrecht Institute within the theme Antimicrobial Resistance.

“If you look at the list of the KNAW’s Principal Investigators (PIs), you will see a number of people who were already working as a PI at NCOH before the KNAW became partnered. What is also striking is that the academy’s PIs are active within all four NCOH themes, an additional plus point for NCOH.” For example, the three PIs employed at the Westerdijk Institute alone are working on three different themes: Antimicrobial Resistance, Emerging Infectious Diseases Preparedness, and Smart & Healthy Farming. “It was therefore relatively easy, from the point of view of both the NCOH and the KNAW, to become partners.”

Exchange of knowledge and experience

The KNAW can therefore contribute to NCOH by supplying knowledge and expertise that the PIs already hold. No separate funding has been made available within the academy for NCOH. However, recently, funding has been granted for two PhD student positions from an internal KNAW research fund to a project that fits the themes of NCOH exactly. Jeroen would like to see a NCOH-PhD community created where PhD students can exchange experiences and benefit from the knowledge of like-minded people. “The KNAW welcomes gatherings where this is emphasised.”

The three involved KNAW institutes in brief

The Hubrecht Institute

The Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research studies developmental biology and stem cells at various levels, i.e., the organism, the cell, and genetics. Its research gives us a better understanding of such human diseases as cancer, heart failure and diabetes. Presently, 20 research groups with a total of about 250 employees are working at the Hubrecht. The institute is located at Utrecht Science Park De Uithof. The Hubrecht Institute is affiliated with the University Medical Center Utrecht, and has close connections with Utrecht University in, for example, the Graduate School of Life Sciences, PhD programme Cancer Stem Cells and Development Biology.

The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO)

The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) conducts basic and strategic research on organisms, populations, ecological communities and ecosystems on land and in water. NIOO has more than 200 employees and students. Since early 2011, the NIOO has been established in a sustainably built research laboratory in Wageningen, the Netherlands.

The Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute

The Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute maintains a world-renowned microbial biological resource centre of living fungi, yeasts and bacteria. The Westerdijk Institute, founded in 1904, focuses on enriching and expanding the world’s leading microbial biological resource centre (currently containing more than 100,000 strains). In 1907, Johanna Westerdijk became director of the institute. To reflect and build on her legacy, in 2017 the name of the institute was changed to the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute. In future, the Westerdijk Institute will focus even more on research into novel products and will continue to explore the world, collect new fungi and investigate their potential for relevant societal applications. The Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute is located at Utrecht Science Park de Uithof and is part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).