A Personal Touch of Annemiek van Spriel

Spriel Annemiek Van

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: Annemiek van Spriel






1. Name, nationality, current function, department & theme?
Annemiek van Spriel, Dutch, Associate Professor at the Dept. of Tumor Immunology. Theme: Cancer development and immune defense.

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. 
When I was a kid I played mostly outside in nature and loved scouting adventures. I wanted to be a writer (I liked poems a lot), which partly came true. I was incredibly inquisitive and always asked questions. My parents have been wonderful and taught me that if you really want something you should go for it and work hard. I think the childhood curiosity drove me into science.

3. What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why did you choose that study/those studies? 
I studied Medical Biology at Utrecht University, which at the time was one of the few Masters that prepared students for a PhD. During my studies I was fascinated by neuroscience and immunology since these two fields seemed important and at the same time very complex. I did my PhD in Immunology at Utrecht University followed by a Post-Doctoral fellowship at Melbourne University in Australia, and joined the Radboudumc in 2004.

4. The RIMLS motto is ‘to understand molecular mechanisms of disease’. What does this mean for you?
For me ‘understanding the molecular mechanisms of disease’ is what drives me to do this great job. The majority of all important discoveries in cancer and immunology are based on fundamental molecular findings that are often unexpected and always exciting. In my opinion it is a very dangerous development that many Grant agencies predominantly invest in short-term results, as it threatens basic research and innovation.

My group studies the mysterious family of tetraspanins (four-transmembrane proteins) that do not act as classical receptors but interact in cis with immunoreceptors and signaling proteins. Once regarded as adaptor molecules, it turns out that tetraspanin proteins are central building blocks of the plasma membrane of all cells that control signal transduction, and when absent or overexpressed can cause cancer.

5. Which international scientist inspires/inspired you the most? Please give a motivation why.
I have met a lot of great inspiring scientists, and had the privilege to work with Prof. Jan van de Winkel. He was not only a bright creative thinker, but also had an amazing amount of positive energy, a central ingredient for a successful scientistJ

6. Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?
We discovered that tetraspanin CD37 protects against the development of B cell lymphoma. Loss of CD37 on neoplastic cells in patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma is directly correlated with activation of the IL-6 signaling pathway and with worse progression-free and overall survival. But I am most proud of the people in my group that do the hard work.

7. Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform? 
Difficult question…. Besides all the experiments that we are already doing, I would really like to generate cells that are completely deficient in all members of the tetraspanin family and study their function during anti-tumor immunity. Thus far we have only been able to investigate cells that lack one or two tetraspanins. If this is incompatible with life, it would prove for the first time that the Tetraspanin web is pivotal for the existence of cells.

8. What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)? 
My desk is fairly organized (although there is always a stack of papers waiting to be read), which is in line with my preference to be well-organized.

9. Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her?
I would like to nominate Katarina Wolf and ask her how she thinks about the future of important basic research.

10. What type of person are you, quick insights:
a) Mac or  PC:
b) Theater or Cinema:
c) Dine out or dine in: 
Both, I love Asian food
d) Ferrari or Fiat:
Not interested in cars
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic:
f) Culture or Nature: 


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