Testimonial Hielke van Splunder

For my first master thesis in biotechnology I followed a thesis at the department of nematology, though in reality only the supervision was arranged via Nematology (Arjen Schots). I was given the opportunity to perform the thesis at Genmab, an international biotech company specialized in anti-cancer therapeutic antibodies.

Hielke van Splunder
There was a lot of room for creative ideas and to design own experiments
Hielke van Splunder

Recently it was discovered that antibody combinations can form hetero-hexamers at the cell surface, each bound to their cognate target, and synergistically induce an effect. Combining this with the principle that complement activation requires clustering of surface-bound antibodies into oligomeric complexes and specific Fc domain modifications inhibit such clustering between equivalent mAbs, target co-localization becomes a prerequisite for efficient hetero-hexamer formation. My thesis focused on the validation of such target co-localization, by studying the activation of the complement cascade in two model systems. This data can be used to increase target co-localization knowledge and contributes to profiling of the surface interactome, which could lead to the development of safer and more efficacious antibody products.

I thoroughly enjoyed the scientific and the exceptional pleasant atmosphere within Genmab. At Genmab students are regarded as employees, which gave good insight in the daily life of researches and scientists. There was a lot of room for creative ideas and to design own experiments. The guidance from Arjen Schots (WUR) and Frank Beurskens (Genmab) was excellent, and for this I would like to thank them again. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the thesis was finished under challenging and unprecedented circumstances. It took me some time to get used to the working from home environment, but it was made easy due to the collaborative spirit within Genmab. During these months, I had the opportunity to work on another project within Genmab and this turned out to be the silver lining. This project focused on innovative ways to boost the activity of the immune system in the tumor microenvironment. I was given a lot of freedom and in the end delivered a new research proposal, which will actually be continued! The appreciation I received for this has motivated me immensely.

I can truly say that my time at Genmab was a big success. I have learned so many new things and genuinely have the feeling I grew as a scientist, besides that I have built up valuable friendships along the way! For this all I am immeasurably grateful.