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NWO Vici grant for Anouk Rijs

Date of news: 19 February 2020

Anouk Rijs has received a Vici grant of 1.5 million euros from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). With this grant she aims to unravel and ultimately control the peptide aggregation mechanism. To be able to do this, Anouk will develop a novel experimental 4-dimensional methodology that will probe structure and kinetics in one single experiment.

Anouk Rijs is associate professor at the FELIX Laboratory.  She combines the FELIX infrared and terahertz spectroscopy with advanced mass spectrometry to elucidate protein folding and aggregation interactions with unprecedented structural detail.

Anouk Rijs, photo Gideon Laureijs

The spontaneous assembly of biological molecules into ordered nanostructures plays a vital role in the development of incurable neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Anouk and her team will use a new experimental methodology that can track this assembly, uniquely, one peptide at a time, in order to understand and control the aggregation process, where peptides accumulate and clump together.


Artist impression of the aggregation of peptides in microdroplets.  This is one of the four dimensions to  follow peptide self-assembly: next to temporal evolution via droplet-microfluidics (kinetics), the researchers will select and probe the aggregates by mass spectrometry (size), ion-mobility (shape) and IR spectroscopy (structure). Image: Sjors Bakels

Anouk: “I immersed myself in different techniques over the past years, that we now advance and bring together in one-single experiment. With this new technology and light from the infrared laser FELIX, we will be able to unravel the secrets of the aggregation process. With the ultimate goal to slow down or even stop the development of neurodegenerative diseases.  This social impact we can have by using new technology and ground breaking science is of course an extra incentive. ”