Tom Wennekes

Tom was born in 1979 in Middelburg, the Netherlands, and started his adventure in chemistry in 1997 with a bachelor equivalent (HLO) chemistry education at the Hogeschool in Eindhoven. Subsequently he studied chemistry at Leiden University where he received his MSc degree in 2002. Here he performed research at the Bio-organic synthesis group of Prof. dr. Jacques van Boom and investigated the synthesis of peptide nucleic acid-artificial ribonuclease conjugates and aminoglycoside analogues. He obtained his PhD degree in 2008 at the same group under the supervision of Prof. dr. Gijs van der Marel and Prof. dr. Hermen Overkleeft, and received the 2007-2008 KNCV Pharmacochemistry prize for best medicinal chemistry PhD thesis in the Netherlands for his PhD thesis. His PhD research was performed in close cooperation with the group of Prof. dr. Hans Aerts (Amsterdam Medical Centre) and involved the development of iminosugars as inhibitors of several carbohydrate-active enzymes that play critical roles in glycosphingolipid metabolism and glycobiology.

After a short postdoctoral stint at Leiden University he was awarded a NWO Rubicon scholarship (2008), to become a post-doctoral fellow in the group of Prof. dr. Steve Withers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Here he conducted research on the development of mechanism-based inhibitors for the neuraminidase of the human influenza A ‘flu’ virus that was published in Science in 2013.

In November 2010, Tom returned to the Netherlands to start his own group within the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry at Wageningen University, as an Assistant Professor in Synthetic Organic Chemistry & Chemical Glycobiology. In 2011 he was awarded a NWO VENI grant to start a research program focusing on the synthesis and glycobiology of unique carbohydrates, belonging to the family of sialic acids, that occur on human-gut associated microbes. The glycobiology part of this study is in collaboration with the Laboratory of Microbiology, headed by Prof. dr. Willem de Vos. In 2015 he received a NWO VIDI grant that will allow him to initiate a research program to investigate the vital role of glycans in rhizosphere plant-microbe interactions using a chemical glycobiology approach on a innovative to be devewloped rhizosphere-on-chip. This research will carried out in collaboration with Dr. Jos Raaijmakers, head of the microbial ecology department at NIOO-KNAW; and Dr. René Geurts, group leader at the Wageningen University Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

As of January 1st 2016, Tom has relocated his research group to Utrecht University. Here the Wennekes Lab has joined the Department of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery (headed by Prof. dr. Geert-Jan Boons) in the Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research and the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences. Tom is also member of the Utrecht Young Academy, a platform for the exchange of critical perspectives on academia, policy, and society in Utrecht and beyond.

Overall his research interests span a range of topics within the fields of synthetic organic chemistry and chemical glycobiology, including developing new synthetic methodology, design and synthesis of complex glycan-based molecules and the development and application of inhibitors, activity-based probes and labelled glycans to investigate symbiotic glycobiology phenomena at the molecular level. Besides science, in his spare time Tom also enjoys listening to a wide variety of music ranging from the Beatles to Slayer and reading books ranging from the classic science fiction authors to the works of Charles Bukowski.

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