Dr. Gonca Karahan won the Distinguished Research Award of the Dutch Transplant Society. This prize is awarded annually to a scientist who has made an important contribution to research in the field of transplantation medicine. The work of dr. Karahan is focused on developing better methods to assess immunological risk for individual transplant patients. Potentially, the use of these new laboratory tests can reduce the risk of rejection of a transplanted organ.
PhD student Ilse Gille, together with group leader Dr. Sebastiaan Heidt, won the Astellas Transplant Research Prize for their research project in which a new cellular therapy is being developed to treat patients who are very difficult to transplant. Some of the patients on the waiting list for a new organ have already developed immunity to foreign tissue antigens, for example through pregnancy, transfusions, or previous transplants. As a result, this growing group of patients has little chance of finding a compatible donor organ. Current treatments are nonspecific, and suppress the entire immune system, leading to increased incidence of infections and cancer. Gille and Heidt's research aims to develop a cellular therapy that specifically targets immunity against foreign tissue antigens, thereby sparing the defense against pathogens. This research is done in close collaboration with Professor Mirjam Heemskerk of the Department of Hematology and is funded by the Dutch Kidney Foundation.