"By working in a multidisciplinary team you can go much further than on your own"

Companies regularly turn to the Utrecht Science Park InnovationLab for expertise, facilities and collaboration, but it can also be the other way around. Marjolein Wildwater is director of Vivaltes and project leader at the research group Innovative Testing in Life Sciences and Chemistry. Vivaltes is a spin-off from the research group and partner of the InnovationLab.

An alternative to animal testing

Marjolein is a biologist and holds a PhD from Utrecht University. Since then she’s been working with C. elegans, a nematode that is used as an alternative to animal testing.
Marjolein: "In 2010 I met professor Raymond Pieters. From day 1 we are a team and we are still that way by the way. C. elegans has a lot proven potential when it comes to an alternative to animal testing. Of all the substances that a person comes into contact with, it must be clear whether it works and whether it’s safe. On the one hand think of substances that mustn’t be toxic (for example plastic drinking bottles or pesticides on fruit and vegetables) and on the other hand whether the substances you take (for example as a medicine) are really effective and do their job. All these substances must be tested on mammals to see if they are safe for humans. That is in the law. The regulations are becoming stricter and stricter. C. elegans offers an alternative to animal testing."

InnovationLab uses C. elegans as an alternative

"C. elegans is very interesting to work with," says Marjolein. "This 1 millimeter small animal has a total of 959 cells. It is such a good alternative to animal testing because it is very predictable in terms of characteristics and behavior and it - strangely enough - in biology resembles a human being. Research into C. elegans has already received Nobel Prizes knowledge and knowledge that can also be applied to a person: think of programmed cell death, for example, C. elegans can learn, smell and he has preferences. You can do a lot of testing with C. elegans. Tests that we can also perform at the InnovationLab.


Students are part of the team

When asked what the most important reason is to be a partner of the InnovationLab, Marjolein answers: “The team. That's the best part. In the InnovationLab you work together in a multidisciplinary team. For me, that means that I can set up projects and investigate questions that I could never have done on my own. That makes it really unique for me. For example, I work with a chemist who has a completely different perspective. Or the lab analyst who is an expert on a device so that you can make better use of the possibilities. The collaboration with programmers is also extremely valuable. Especially with large projects and huge amounts of data, the applicability and accessibility of that data is crucial. One of the nicest aspects is working with students. For the period that they carry out an assignment or do a project, they are really part of the team for me. And they already learn a few things of working life."

For potential partners of the InnovationLab

"The InnovationLab is a solution for life sciences companies that cannot finance the facilities themselves or have the equipment themselves. Together with the partners of ilab, the university of applied sciences and the Utrecht Science Park you form a network. You form a team. And that team is the greatest added value for me."


About Vivaltes

Vivaltes assesses the health effects of substances without the use of animal testing and offers companies animal-free testing with C. elegans. The applications are further developed through the research group and the InnovationLab. "I’ve been working with C. elegans for 10 years and I continue to learn more and more about the possibilities and characteristics of this animal. We take this knowledge into account when developing tests and models for companies."

Do you want to work with us, just like Marjolein?

Curious about what we can do for your organization? Consider the use of lab rooms and state-of-the-art equipment? Need to co-create with highly-trained scientists to test and further develop your idea or product? Need expertise, equipment to answer your knowledge questions? Contact Friso Smit.