VIB starts up a research group on multiple sclerosis at UHasselt

24 November 2015

​Official opening of the laboratory attended by government minister Philippe Muyters

The VIB/UHasselt Kleinewietfeld Lab was officially opened this morning. This research group is led by Prof. Markus Kleinewietfeld. Kleinewietfeld was appointed through an international selection process to further expand on his MS research at VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) and the Hasselt University, where he is also active as a professor.  The lab is located in the Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED) at UHasselt and it is the first VIB group within this university.

Markus Kleinewietfeld (VIB/UHasselt): “The dual appointment at UHasselt and VIB provides an excellent working context for my research through the combination of an outstanding scientific and clinical environment in the field of MS-research and autoimmunity at Biomed/UHasselt and the extraordinary concentration of immunological knowledge and basic- and translational research, as well as access to state of the art core-facilities and expertise at VIB. My group would be a perfect addendum to existing research at UHasselt and VIB and would offer many intersections for collaborations and for the development of new projects.”

Investments in innovation as a boost to the region
Further research on MS in Hasselt falls within the SALK program (the Dutch acronym for Strategic Action Plan for Limburg Squared) that was started up the Flemish Government following the closure of Ford Genk. Enhancing the Hasselt research cluster will lead over time to new patents and spin-offs that will ultimately boost the biotech landscape in the province of Limburg and the Flanders region as a whole.
Over the course of the next four years, EUR 1.6m will be invested in the Kleinewietfeld group through the SALK program. Markus Kleinewietfeld will use this investment to recruit new researchers. In addition, Prof. Kleinewietfeld has obtained a prestigious ERC grant which he will also use to reinforce his research team.

Philippe Muyters, the Flemish Minister for Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport, explains: “Science and innovation is one of the common threads running through the policy of the Flemish Government. Therefore we are very proud to have succeeded in attracting the prominent researcher Markus Kleinewietfeld to Flanders by means of our investments through the SALK program, and cooperation with two strong partners, VIB and UHasselt. This strengthening of expertise in MS research confirms the attraction of Flanders as research region and will place the Flemish biotech research sector even more firmly on the international map.”

Focus: MS research 
With his VIB/UHasselt research group, Markus Kleinewietfeld intends to study the processes that lead to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). UHasselt’s many years of expertise in MS research, in combination with VIB’s focus on basic research and its translation into applications, are what persuaded this top researcher to come to Flanders.

Piet Stinissen, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences at UHasselt: “While he is here, Markus Kleinewietfeld will expand a line of research into how nutrition and the microbiome affect the regulation of the immune system in diseases such as MS. This fits in well with the current lines of research at UHasselt-BIOMED. We already have many years of expertise in researching the role of the immune system in autoimmune diseases such as MS. Participation in the VIB network also opens up new perspectives for boosting the Flemish biotech landscape in Limburg. VIB has a proven track record in setting up and growing promising biotech firms. The considerable expertise on autoimmune diseases within the new VIB group in UHasselt-BIOMED may lead to new interaction and cooperation arrangements with biopharmaceutical companies in the region and could provide a basis for new spin-off businesses in this sector”.

Jo Bury, managing director VIB: “The cooperation between VIB and UHasselt is now gaining a specific form since we have set up the VIB-UHasselt group led by Markus Kleinewietfeld. He is a top researcher, trained at Harvard, who is joining VIB to consolidate his work on MS. His work was recently awarded an ERC grant, which also serves as a mark of the quality of his research. His expertise and plans for the future fit perfectly into VIB’s lines of research and will deliver value to the research community at VIB and Flanders”.

CV Markus Kleinewietfeld
Markus Kleinewietfeld trained as a biologist, obtaining his doctorate from the Free University of Berlin in 2006. He then went on to conduct his research at the Max-Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin (2006-2009), the prestigious Harvard Medical School and at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (2009-2014). From 2010 to 2013, he was associate researcher at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, USA and since 2013 he has worked at the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) in Germany. He has a strong academic record with a range of publications in top international journals. Markus Kleinewietfeld recently obtained a prestigious ERC grant.

Following an international selection process organized by VIB and UHasselt, Markus Kleinewietfeld took on the position of group leader at VIB and research professor at UHasselt (Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences). His laboratory is located at the Biomedical Research Institute on the Diepenbeek campus.

Markus Kleinewietfeld



Opening labo VIB