Folkert van Werven obtained a BSc from University College Utrecht in 2001, and an MSc in applied bioscience from Hokkaido University in 2003. In 2009 he obtained a PhD from the University of Utrecht. During his PhD he developed and used genome-wide approaches to understand how basal transcription factors are dynamically recruited to gene promoters.
After completing his PhD he joined the laboratory of Angelika Amon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA. There he studied how entry into yeast gametogenesis is regulated. The work led to the discovery that in cells with a single mating type transcription of two long noncoding RNAs represses two master regulatory genes of gametogenesis. The mechanism involved includes transcription coupled recruitment and repression by highly conserved chromatin regulators.
Folkert's work at the Francis Crick Institute (previously at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute) currently focuses on how regulation gene expression controls cell differentiation, in particular in the context of long noncoding RNAs and mRNA isoforms, signal integration, and epitranscriptomics.