ProQR Therapeutics Property,
Head of Intellectual Property
How did you become interested in the field?
I am a Dutch and European patent attorney with a Masters in Chemical Biology/Molecular Biology from Utrecht University, The Netherlands (Msc. 1988).
My master’s thesis was about differential splicing of RNA, a fascinating field that was in its infancy at that time. When I got into contact with my current employer – ProQR Therapeutics N.V. – in December 2012, after a long career as an IP specialist in the life sciences and telecommunications, it felt as if I had “come full circle” as ProQR is developing oligonucleotide-based therapies targeting Cystic Fibrosis and other genetic diseases, among which, “splicing diseases”. I am very excited about the biology of post-transcriptional gene regulation, including oligonucleotide based technologies that make it possible to interfere with such regulation to cure disease. I am simply blown away by the progress the field has made since I finalized my last experiments late 1980-ies.
Who were your early mentors?
My early mentors, were not so much in science but were in IP law, more in particular intellectual property law. This is probably of less interest to the average OTS member (not that there is anything ‘average’ about them!!).
My first involvement with OTS was last year’s conference – in San Diego – as an attendant on behalf of ProQR Therapeutics. As Head of Intellectual Property at ProQR I follow the field closely, both from a scientific and business perspective. ProQR both actively develops its own technologies and therapeutic oligonucleotides and follows closely what its peers are doing. My role at ProQR is first and foremost to design and execute the patent strategy for the company and to make sure its investments in new developments are timely and adequately protected. During my 25-year career in life sciences IP, I equally liked the legal, the business and the science aspects of my job. Having said that, today, it is the science aspect of my profession that appeals to me the most. Understanding the biology of and using the power of (oligonucleotide) technology to design a cure for – or alleviate the symptoms of – genetic diseases is very close to my academic heart.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am happily married and my wife and I have three teenage children, two sons and a daughter.
If I am not at work, travelling or at home with my family, you will likely find me in the swimming pool, running or on my time trial bike, training for or racing a triathlon. Over the last ten years, I have competed in and completed 21 full distance triathlons (3.8km swim – 180km bike ride – 42.2km run), including Ironman Hawaii, in 2011 and 2013.
Although there are never enough hours in a day, I usually have a book or two under my pillow. I love to read novels as well as non-fiction (usually science or history). Currently I am reading “Good People”, a novel by the young and very talented author Nir Baram. “Good people” is a story featuring a young man and a young Jewish woman, living in pre-WOII Berlin and Leningrad, respectively. Both face an immense moral dilemma whether or not to co-operate with the evil regimes of their time, in order to prevent a greater evil in their lives. The last science related book I read was “Cycles of time”, an astonishingly well written theory of the origin and future of the cosmos, by Roger Penrose.
The last movie I saw was “The theory of everything”, an account of the somewhat sad but otherwise up-lifting and remarkable life of one of the greatest and most celebrated scientific minds of our time, the physicist Stephen Hawking.