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Professor Yvette van Kooyk, who heads the Molecular Cell Biology and Immunology department, was awarded the Spinoza Prize for her research in the field of immunology. She unravelled the mystery of how cancer, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases (such as HIV/AIDS) are able to disrupt the immune system. She discovered that certain sugar molecules, known as ‘glycans’, can stimulate – or, indeed, inhibit – communication between cells of the immune system. Prof. Van Kooyk develops nanomedicines that help the immune system fight cancer and other diseases. She is regarded as a world-class expert in this field.

Vinod Subramaniam, Rector Magnificus of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam: “I am extremely proud that Yvette van Kooyk has won the Spinoza Prize. She has already received a number of prestigious awards, such as the ERC Advanced Grant. So it is entirely fitting that she be awarded this particular prize, as a crowning achievement to a glittering career. The Prize will give an enormous impetus to Yvette’s efforts to make the field of immunology more tangible for society at large.”

Yvette van Kooyk points out that “When it comes to research into cancer or arthritis, people immediately have some idea of what you are talking about. It is much more difficult to package immunology for public consumption. Yet this field enjoys much greater social status in America. I want to build a robust network of glycoimmunologists, to help us meet up – and inspire one another – a little more often than we do now. I would also like to see stronger ties between our research and the world of clinical practice. I’m also keen to involve artists, as they could help us reach a wider audience in a way that is outside our scientific comfort zone. This would help the public to see what immunology involves, and what challenges those in our field are currently tackling.” Read the details of NWOs interview with Yvette van Kooyk.