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Life at B-PHOT

Jasper Van Hoorick wins Solvay Award for ocular regeneration research


Researcher Jasper Van Hoorick has won a 2019 Solvay Award with his joint PhD research at B-PHOT (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and PBM (UGent). His work on Ocular regeneration is entitled 'Biopolymers Immobilized on Polyester Membranes: Towards Ocular Regeneration. Each year, together with the Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry, chemical company Solvay encourages bright scientific minds by awarding young STEM PhD from the faculties of Sciences and Engineering of both the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. The 2019 and 2020 Solvay Awards took place on September 12th 2021 in Brussels. A total of 13 young STEM PhD got rewarded on that day.

One of the leading causes of visual impairment is related to a damaged Cornea. Currently, the standard method of care consists of partial corneal transplantation. However on average, only one donor is available for every 70 patients. Therefore, the present research on Ocular Regeneration is focussed on the development of a more sustainable solution. To this end, two major aspects were elaborated: Firstly, new gelatin hydrogels were developed for processing via high resolution laser based 3D printing, thereby moving beyond the currently encountered processing limits in terms of required energy and gelatin concentration. Secondly, these hydrogels were combined with polyester membranes to act as biodegradable grafts to allow for sustainable corneal regeneration.

Together with some colleagues, Van Hoorick is currently building further on this research via the spin off project XPECT INX focusing on the development and commercialization of ‘bioinks’ for biofabrication applications. Biofabrication is the scientific field which uses 3D printing for the generation of 3D tissues or tissue substitutes for a whole range of applications. Via this way he hopes to aid in bringing the joint research performed between PBM (Polymer Chemistry and Biomaterials Group) and B-PHOT closer to reality and in that sense closer to the patients. Building further on this complementary expertise, Van Hoorick is currently also engaging in an ACTPHAST4R project to increase his chances of success. The research was supervised by promotors Hugo Thienpont, Jürgen Van Erps, Sandra Van Vlierberghe and Peter Dubruel.

“Receiving a 2019 Solvay award, was a great honor, and a crown of the years of research performed during my PhD", says Van Hoorick. "I am sure that this recognition will open a lot of dors towards the success of our spin-off company XPECT INX. Also receiving this award from dr. Ilham Kadri, the CEO of Solvay and a fellow chemist who ventured successfully into the business world is a great inspiration.”

Jasper Van Hoorick

The Solvay Awards

Since its beginning in 1989, the Solvay Awards crowned more than 500 students, postdocs and scientists, nurturing their scientific journey and mentoring their way in the industry. The selection is done by the Solvay Awards Jury and takes into account the work submitted for evaluation both for basic or applied research focusing on one of the following fields:

  • The investigation and understanding of matter (structure, properties, transformation, chemical reactivity and material science)
  • The study of the mechanisms and chemistry of life
  • New production technologies
  • New resources, energy storage & generation
  • Environmental sciences & sustainable development

The nominators also evaluate the ability to summarise and communicate to making main scientific messages intelligible by non-specialists. Furthermore, the candidates are invited to present their own view on the potential contribution of their work to society, contributing to the great advancement of humankind for a better future. It is a real challenge!

Get inspired by 2020 Solvay Prize Jury member and 1987 Nobel Prize Laureate Jean-Marie Lehn