VIB's top stories: the year in review

Relive the best stories of 2023 with our editor's pick

From groundbreaking scientific discoveries to inspiring moments of innovation, join us in celebrating 2023 at VIB through our editor's pick of the Top 10 Stories.

1. New study discovers how neurons die in Alzheimer's disease

15 September - A research team led by Prof. Bart De Strooper (VIB-KU Leuven and the UK Dementia Research Institute) and Dr. Sriram Balusu (VIB-KU Leuven) has finally discovered how neurons die in Alzheimer’s disease. Subject of scientific discussion for the past decades, a breakthrough research paper published in Science illustrates how neurons initiate a programmed form of cell death, known as necroptosis, when they are exposed to amyloid plaques and tau tangles – the hallmark misfolded proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s. More importantly, the research team could prevent the death of neurons, rescuing them in the process. The discovery opens new pathways for potential future treatments.

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2. A great year for Confo Therapeutics

VIB spin-off company Confo Therapeutics, a leader in the discovery of medicines targeting G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), announced some major collaborations this year:

2 March - A worldwide licensing agreement with Eli Lilly and Company for Confo Therapeutic’s clinical stage CFTX-1554 and backup compounds.

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30 March - A collaboration agreement with Daiichi Sankyo for the discovery and development of small molecule agonists against an undisclosed target associated with CNS diseases.

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15 June - A research collaboration with AbCellera for the discovery of therapeutic antibody candidates targeting two undisclosed GPCR targets.

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3. Three in a row for the Generet Award

17 February - The Generet Award, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, is the biggest prize for rare diseases in Belgium and Europe. This year’s winner is Ludo Van Den Bosch (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain and Disease Research) for his research on ALS. In the previous two years, the award has gone to Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Rosa Rademakers for their work on the (mis)development of the human brain and research into frontotemporal dementia, respectively. That’s three in a row for VIB. 

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Research into rare diseases
An interview with Pierre Vanderhaeghen, Rosa Rademakers, and Ludo Van Den Bosch, three consecutive winners of the Generet Award

4. A center director is appointed for VIB.AI, the new Center for AI & Computational Biology

Visit the VIB.AI website

5. VIB and UGent develop new mRNA vaccines against bacterial infections

25 April - VIB and UGent are leading a European Network that has secured a grant of more than 8 million euros to develop a new vaccine technology against bacterial infections. In a consortium called "Baxerna," VIB, UGent, Ghent University Hospital, VUB, ULB, the Pasteur Institute, the Radboud Medical Center, and the Karolinska Institute, led by Profs. Lennart Martens and Francis Impens (VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology) will search for new antibacterial mRNA vaccines as a preventive tool in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. This will initially focus on pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium ulcerans, and Acinetobacter baumannii. The first clinical studies will take place at Ghent University Hospital in collaboration with the Center for Vaccinology (CEVAC).

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6. Microbes in the spotlight: using microbes as factories

20 September - Developing new drugs is a journey that requires significant resources and knowledge. A promising strategy involves harnessing the power of microbes in so-called microbial synthetic in vivo cell therapy systems to produce natural products with medicinal properties. The MiSTiC ERC (European Research Council) project led by Joleen Masschelein (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology) investigates the potential of beneficial, human-associated microorganisms to produce complex natural products for chronic intestinal disease treatment. This approach can potentially revolutionize drug development, as it addresses challenges of complexity and scarcity while offering new, sustainable routes to personalized medicine. ​

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7. A successful funding round for Aphea.Bio

11 July - VIB spin-off Aphea.Bio, a Belgium-based agricultural technology company, announced the successful closing of its Series C Funding round, securing € 70 million. The round was led by Innovation Industries, joined by Korys Investments, and supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, SFPIM, BNP Paribas Fortis and received strong support from returning investors ECBF, Astanor, AIF, as well as other existing shareholders.

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8. Technologies in the spotlight: the VIB Core Facilities

8 March - Debuting in early 2023, VIB Technologies fosters technological innovation at VIB through two orchestrators: Tech Watch and Core Facilities.

“Bringing these two programs under one ‘roof’ and assigning them a dedicated cross-ecosystem coordination team helps spark a vision of true collaborations across multiple domains of inquiry,” enthuses Sofie Coelus, Business Development Manager at VIB Technologies. “Core Facilities are at the heart of this process because they make the tech and its related expertise accessible – to benefit our scientists and the broader life sciences industry.”
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9. Immune system causes lung damage in COVID patients

24 August - Researchers at the Center for Inflammation Research, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent University, and the Université Libre de Bruxelles have figured out how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, causes severe lung damage. The complement system, part of our innate defenses, is to blame. The breakthrough could potentially lead to new treatment options.

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10. Plants in the spotlight: a behind-the-scenes with our greenhouse technicians

5 June - During May and June, we shone our spotlight on the innovative research at VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology. In our mission to bring you exciting stories about discoveries and potential applications, we tend to focus only on the results of the research. What we focus less on is the whole experimental process that goes into obtaining these results. On June 9th, two of our amazing greenhouse technicians, Kirin Demuynck and Nico Smet, took over our VIBLifeSciences Instagram page. Find out how their hard work is the base for scientific breakthroughs. In this interview, we already want to introduce our two colleagues who will take you behind the scenes. ​

Read moreWatch the Instagram takeover

Cheers to the new year!

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