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President: Hans Clevers

The geneticist and physician Hans Clevers (born 1957) has been the President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) since 1 June. He has also been professor of molecular genetics at Utrecht University Medical Centre (UMC-U) since 2002.

Hans Clevers. Foto: Henk ThomasHans Clevers studied medicine and biology, taking his doctorate at Utrecht University in 1985 and going on to carry out postdoctoral work at Harvard. From 1991 to 2002, he was professor of immunology at the UMC-U, where he has been professor of molecular genetics since 2002. From 2002 to 2012, he was the director of the Hubrecht Institute, one of the sixteen KNAW institutes. In order to prevent any conflict of interests, Prof. Clevers has resigned from his position at the Hubrecht Institute and is continuing his research two days a week at the UMC-U. He is also an honorary professor at Central South University in Changsha, Hunan, China.

Prof. Clevers has received countless research prizes in recent years, including the Spinoza Prize (2001), the Louis-Jeantet Prize (2004), the Josephine Nefkens Prize for Cancer Research, the Meyenburg Prize (both in 2008), the Kolff Prize, the Ernst Jung Medical Award, and the Léopold Griffuel Prize (all in 2011). In 2012, he was awarded the Léopold Griffuel Prize, the William Beaumont Prize, and the prestigious international Heineken Prize for Medicine. He was also made a Chevalier of the French Legion d'Honneur and a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau. In 2014 the Massachusetts General Hospital Award in Cancer Research has been given to Hans Clevers.

Hans Clevers is seen as an enthusiastic, engaged, and inspiring researcher who is one of the world leaders in his field. His research deals with the intestine, in both its healthy and diseased state. He has discovered that there are numerous similarities between the normal process whereby intestinal tissue is renewed and the development of intestinal cancer. Improved understanding of these processes is crucial to developing new ways of treating cancer. Hans Clevers has described the molecular signalling pathways that are disrupted by cancer and has identified a protein that is specific to stem cells in the intestine. He has then been able to grow 'mini-intestines' from individual stem cells. These are the first steps on the road to regenerative medicine, in this case the regeneration of intestinal tissue.

Hans Clevers holds a dozen patents and was involved in setting up a number of biotechnology companies such as Crucell, Hybrigenics, and Agamyxis. Until recently, he was also a scientific adviser to two Dutch biotechnology investment firms, Aglaia Biomedical Ventures B.V. and Life Sciences Partners B.V.. He has now resigned from these advisory positions so as to prevent any conflict of interests. The same applies to his position as director of Agamyxis, his own start-up company. His founder’s shares will be administered by a trust office.

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