I’ve always been interested in the way biology works, what makes life tick. I therefore decided to study Biochemistry & Biotechnology at KU Leuven, in the bustling metropolis of Leuven, Belgium. After sailing through courses, long evenings on the Old Market, exams and writing a masters’ dissertation on computed-aided drug design for antithrombotics, I graduated in 2009, and embarked on a PhD in the labs of Molecular Virology and Gene Therapy (Dr Zeger Debyser, KU Leuven) and Biomolecular Modelling (Dr Marc De Maeyer, KU Leuven) with an FWO doctoral fellowship. The aim of my PhD was to develop small molecule inhibitors of the protein-protein interaction governing HIV-1 nuclear import during its integration step into the host cell genome. My growing bioinformatics enthusiasm and broad interests however made me into a jack of all trades and instead from sticking to the single project, I ended up collaborating and driving research in fields as disparate as the (epi)genomics of retroviral integration and leukaemia, structural biology, fundamental virology and drug discovery. The last two years of my PhD I combined with an additional MSc in Bioinformatics at KU Leuven, finally wrapping up both in February and June 2015, respectively.
Switching gears to maximise my exposure to hands-on computational biology research, I took up a postdoc position in the brand new lab of Dr Peter Van Loo (back then at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, currently the Francis Crick Institute) and strayed into the field of Cancer Genomics. I’ve since been granted postdoctoral fellowships by the FWO and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions. Reactivating the project magnet, I’ve worked on disseminated tumour cells in breast cancer, recurrent homozygous deletions and allele-specific expression to identify novel tumour suppressors and non-coding drivers respectively, deconvolution of (epi)genomic and transcriptomic signals coming from the normal and cancer cell populations in human/dog/tasmanian devil tumour samples and punctuated events during tumour evolution.
I’m currently tackling questions relating to homologous recombination repair and recurrent events in tumour samples, moving into long and linked-read technologies and expanding my scope beyond human malignancies.