Derk Amsen appointed professor of Molecular T-cell Immunology

Derk Amsen, who has worked at Sanquin as group leader of Immunology since 2013, has been appointed professor of Molecular T-cell Immunology as of January 1. With the chair, which will be established together with the Amsterdam University Medical Center, Derk will focus on the further development of therapies using T cells.

Coming from a background in fundamental immunology, he worked for seven years Yale in the United States on the regulation of T-cell responses, Derk found a direction for his interests at Sanquin. "The functioning of various T cells is endlessly interesting. At Sanquin I got the chance to do more humane work, and also a direction for research. After all, this had to be of use in developing T-cell therapy. The basis of Sanquin is the transfusion of red blood cells to help patients who have too few of them. Something similar can be done with white blood cells, such as T cells. An important role in this in the coming years will be genetic modification of the cells, making them do very precisely what we want."

T cells are white blood cells that are important in fighting viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites in the body. We are now increasingly using T cells to fight cancer and immune diseases, for example.

Derk: "Besides T cells that protect us against infections and cancer, there are also special T cells, which actually suppress the immune system. If you can apply that effect, it is enormously promising for the treatment of various disorders. Think, for example, of the rejection of transplanted organs, or in the longer term, for example, MS."

Derk praises the Research structure at Sanquin. "Within the Medical Priorities, we have a very nice connection between people with fundamental knowledge, people with understanding of production processes (especially Carlijn Voermans and Marten Hansen of the Cell Therapy Laboratory) and Medical Specialists, such as Mette Hazenberg, Lieve Tytgat and Taco Kuijpers. Moreover, we have gathered a very strong group of T-cell immunologists at Sanquin with also Monika Wolkers and Klaas van Gisbergen and a new group leader Iosifina Foskolou. Our combined 'T-cell group' of about 25 people is an incredibly valuable group of people for this research, and I am proud to continue working with them in the coming years!"