Cisca Wijmenga, Full Professor of Human Genetics at the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG), was appointed Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion. This royal distinction, which is awarded for exceptional service to the community, was presented to her by the deputy mayor of the province of Groningen, Mattias Gijsbertse, on 20 September 2018.
Born in 1964, Wijmenga is considered a leading scientist whose work has made a major contribution to our understanding of the genetics of complex chronic diseases, most notably of gluten intolerance (coeliac disease). In 2015 she received the Spinoza Prize - the top Dutch research award - in recognition of her achievements.
In 2017, the Dutch government’s Gravitation programme awarded a subsidy to a project that Wijmenga is co-leading that entails research into ‘organs-on-chips’. An ‘intestine-on-a-chip’ helps her to carry out more thorough research into coeliac disease, as well as studying the role of intestinal bacteria in human health and sickness.
Wijmenga’s work has also transformed clinical practice. In the ten years she spent heading up the Genetics department, she managed to close the gap that often exists between research and clinical practice. Her efforts have contributed to the significant speeding up of DNA testing, which means that genetic information is often available sooner in the diagnostic process. Together with her team, she has also led multiple initiatives designed to popularize genetics, epidemiology and life science research in general.
Lodewijk Sandkuijl Chair
Wijmenga received the royal distinction during a symposium organised to mark her inauguration to the Lodewijk Sandkuijl Chair, awarded to her by the Executive Board of the University of Groningen in 2017 in recognition of her exceptional contribution to research.
The chair is named after Lodewijk Sandkuijl (1953-2002), who helped to lay the foundations of statistical genetics. He conceived and developed methods to unravel the hereditary factors involved in complex diseases. Wijmenga worked closely with Sandkuijl from the early nineties until his unexpected death in 2002, and it was actually at her suggestion that this chair was named after him.
Source: UG and UMCG