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  • Writer's pictureAntleron NV

Rik Gijsbers brings molecular and cell biology excellence & viral vector expertise for gene therapy

To further extends its ATMP expertise base, Antleron welcomes Rik Gijsbers as a part-time expert in its team of multidisciplinary fellows. Rik is an associate professor at the department of pharmaceutical and pharmacological sciences in the KU Leuven faculty of medicine. He is also is responsible for the day-to-day management and scientific innovation at the Leuven Viral Vector Core (LVVC). Rik Gijsbers: "I am happy to be part of the Antleron team, where I can contribute to ATMP-related R&D projects on the level of therapy methodology, quality, upscaling and regulation."

Spreading my wings beyond my academic career

Intrigued by popular science television programs such as 'Wondere Wereld' (Miraculous World) by Chriet Titulaer in his youth, Rik Gijsbers decided to study at the KU Leuven university. After he graduated as a master in bioscience engineering (cell and gene technology) in 1997, Rik took on a PhD in medical sciences. Subsequently, Rik did several post-doctoral fellowships mastering molecular virology and viral vector technology. In 2014 he entered a tenure track program at the Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences at KU Leuven, and was appointed associate professor in 2019. Apart from his teaching assignments on ATMPs, cell and gene technology, and medical biotechnology, Rik is involved in viral vector engineering and cell and gene therapy development for treating rare diseases.

Rik's extensive and in-depth expertise is a great addition to the multidisciplinary know-how of the Antleron fellows, both practically and theoretically. "It is exciting to intensively collaborate with the talented fellows of the Antleron family. By gathering people with different educational backgrounds and professional experiences, we are able to innovate ATMP developments and production processes. In this regard, Antleron's ecosystem of partners and customers offers excellent opportunities and challenges."

Co-creating advanced therapies to change healthcare

"Together we are actively engaged in R&D projects alike, proposing solutions for diagnostics, (personalized) cell and gene therapies, screenings and lab-on-chip applications," says Rik. “Antleron is continuously strengthening its technology toolbox to further increase the effectiveness and scalability of bioprocesses and reduce the time and cost from lab to patient. "As for cell therapies, we see a similar need in the production needs and scale for viral vectors. Here, the challenge is combining high effectiveness in healing a rare or incurable disease and reducing the risk of patients developing cancer as a side effect. Also the time from a new viral vector to production is typically eighteen months."

As an example, Antleron is working on life science projects in which 3D printing is a key technology to shape closed-loop units. This enables Antleron to further develop its therapy-specific scaling strategies for cell-based therapy production. Also custom cell-culture based biofunctionality for applications ranging from biomaterials to medical devices are investigated. We are working on an in vitro biofunctionality testing concept, which allows for shifting upstream critical decision-making steps in biomaterial and medical device development.

Toward faster and more affordable commercialization

"It is fulfilling to share insights which are useful in developing safer and more effective therapies and reaching higher degrees in production automation. Apart from life sciences expertise, Antleron’s technology spectrum is very wide, including 3D printing, (soft) sensing, computer simulation, machine learning and innovative materials. These technologies support the evolution from predominantly manual ATMP processes to closed production cycles that can be automated."

Explore new things within and beyond life sciences

"Working for Antleron broadens my view and is more directly connected with the life sciences industry, facilitating technology development to allow these innovative therapies to reach the clinic more easily. The interaction between therapeutical and technological innovations holds the key to realize major advancements. I like to interact and collaborate as part of Antleron's dynamic and skillful team, with everyone being friendly, helpful and down to earth. It is a great experience to be on a joint mission as there is so much more to accomplish when doing it together."

"I am definitively curious in life sciences. There are a million of other things that I find fascinating: cooking, selecting whisky casks, savour whisky and enjoy a great meal with kindred spirits, gardening ... everything that touches the senses. I regularly play padel, tennis or go out to discover and experience new hiking trails with family and friends. Overall I like to explore new things and enjoy this to the fullest with other people."


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