Hendrik Marks

Hendrik Marks
What’s exciting about stem cell research? Everything!
Hendrik Marks
Human Biology
Current role
Associate professor Molecular Biology

What’s exciting about stem cell research? “Everything!”, according to Hendrik Marks. “Stem cell research allows us to gain more insight into our life and apply these insights to diseases or staying healthy when growing old.” Hendrik Marks is associate professor at Radboud University.

One of Hendrik Marks’ research topics is testing the effect of certain medicines in mini organs in early embryonic developments. “Pregnancy for example. With this research, we will know more about which medicines are safe to take as a pregnant person and which are not.”

Herman the Bull

As a pupil at grammar school, Hendrik Marks developed a passion for biology. “At the time, Herman the bull was often in the Dutch news. A genetically manipulated bull, they called him. They built the human gene lactoferrin in his DNA. Back then, I didn’t understand what that meant, but I did read what they want to achieve with it: stimulating babies’ immune system with this lactoferrin in milk. I thought it was fascinating.”

Viruses in shrimp

It made Hendrik Marks study Biotechnology in Wageningen after secondary school. “After that, I obtained by PhD in Virology in Wageningen, and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.” Hendrik’s PhD research in Wageningen was on viruses in shrimp in commercial farms in Vietnam. “I learnt to further unravel molecular biology and to defeat viruses. It’s going in deep, the fundamental research, that interests me. It’s like solving a puzzle every time. And if you succeed, it’s really amazing.”

Embryonic stem cells

After that, Hendrik Marks ended up at Radboud University. “I study embryonic stem cells to fix existing tissue of a human when it gets damaged or ill, for example after a heart attack, with stem cells from a different part of the body to fix the heart. I also work on the development of embryonic model systems to understand the growth of a fertilised egg into an entire organism.


Hendrik realises that it also leads to more and more in-depth, often ethical, discussions about the origin of life. “That’s important. At the time of Herman the bull, the public opinion wasn’t all that positive. However, if you are able to explain why you are doing something – like the research on mini organs I do right now to improve pregnancies – you can really contribute to the knowledge development and improve life.”


Besides research, Hendriks Marks also teaches at Radboud University and he supervises students that are doing research. “Last year, I supervised a student writing a research proposal. He did this so well, that the Dutch Research Council awarded him grants. This means that we can continue our research. It’s really nice to see talents develop in this way.”

Master’s in Medical Biology

Hendrik Marks is also programme coordinator of the Master’s in Medical Biology at Radboud University. “Every year, around 150 new students enrol.” Hendrik Marks likes that he occurs in the biology books at secondary schools. “They mentioned me with the folding of the X-chromosome in the book Biology for You”. All in all, I think this subject is fascinating. I hope that more people will discover it as well.”