Bringing biomedical research closer to the patient: appointments to strategic positions

2019 - 07 - 11

LIH is currently refining its research strategy to focus more on translational research, placing patients and the population at the centre of its activities. Jointly with its national partners, the institute aims to develop new diagnostic methods, innovative therapies and effective tools to contribute to the implementation of personalised medicine. In this context, Prof Rejko Krüger has joined LIH as Director of Transversal Translational Medicine while continuing his commitments at the University of Luxembourg and the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL). Furthermore, Dr Guy Berchem has been appointed Associated Medical Director and Prof Simone Niclou has taken over the management of the Department of Oncology.

The three new directors will have a key role in enabling the institute to carry out its mission and play a leading role in developing Luxembourg into a translational research hub in Europe.

Prof Rejko Krüger: Coordinating transversal research programs

In his new function, Prof Krüger will develop and supervise translational research programs involving multiple partners from different sectors. These programs will be inspired by the National Centre of Excellence in Research on Parkinson's Disease (NCER-PD), a translational centre of excellence created in 2015 and funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), in which Prof Krüger has the role of co-coordinator.

For laboratory research to be of direct benefit to patients, all key stakeholders must be brought together: researchers, clinicians, patient associations, health authorities, industrial partners,’ underlines Krüger. ‘The experience gained from NCER-PD, an example of a very successful multi-stakeholder collaboration, will be key in my new role. This program will serve as a reference model for the implementation of other translational research programs on topics such as cancer or immune disease, including large patient cohorts and integrating digital health tools.

Prof Krüger is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Luxembourg since 2014 and leads a research group at the Luxembourg Centre for Biomedicine Systems (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg, supported by a PEARL excellence grant from the FNR. He also works as a physician in the Neurology Department of the CHL. In addition to these commitments, Prof Krüger is Director of Transversal Translational Medicine at LIH since mid-June. Prof Krüger will strengthen the ties between these institutions and carry out projects based on a common scientific strategy.  

Dr Guy Berchem: Bringing research and clinical need closer together

Oncology specialist Dr Berchem is physician in the Haematology / Haemato-Oncology/ Oncology Department at the CHL. For more than 15 years, he headed a research unit in the Department of Oncology. Further to his affiliation with the CHL, he accepted a new position at LIH in May, that of Associated Medical Director. Thanks to his dual expertise, Dr Berchem will be able to strengthen the links between research laboratories and hospitals.

LIH is not directly involved in patient care but can have a true impact,’ states Dr Berchem. ‘In order to improve treatments and propose new ones, there must be close interaction between biomedical research and the clinical world. My role is to facilitate this interaction and guide LIH researchers to ensure that their research projects address patient needs and clinically relevant issues.’

Prof Simone Niclou: Improving cancer care

On 1st May, Prof Niclou has been appointed to the position of Director of the Department of Oncology. She has thus taken over the responsibilities of Prof Rolf Bjerkvig, who headed this department for five years and is now acting as scientific consultant for LIH. With the mission to develop cancer research, the Department of Oncology leads projects in the fields of neuro-oncology, immuno-oncology, immunotherapies and tumour resistance mechanisms. Prof Niclou has been Head of Unit in the department since 2008 and Adjunct Professor at the University of Bergen in Norway since 2014. She specialised in the biology of brain tumours named gliomas.

‘First of all, I want to set up a new structural organisation within the department, based on a horizontal hierarchy that enhances the scientific interaction between the teams,’ explains Prof Niclou. ‘This will enable the implementation of common strategic objectives, including the establishment of a research program for the direct benefit of cancer patients. The training and development of young researchers is also particularly important to me. I see this new position as an opportunity to further support young talents who aim to dedicate their career to research.

For the new Department Director, the synergies of fundamental, translational and clinical research will enable her department to become an accelerator in the field of cancer research and care in Luxembourg. 'I am confident that we can improve patient care and become a translational research hub. Of course, this can only be done in close collaboration with our national and international clinical and academic partners,’ adds Prof Niclou.

Prof Simone Niclou, Director of the Department of Oncology.

Prof Rejko Krüger, Director of Transversal Translational Medicine (copyright: University of Luxembourg)

Dr Guy Berchem, Associated Medical Director.