A Personal Touch of René Bindels

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Please learn more about colleagues in our "Personal Touch" series setting employees in the spotlight. A light-hearted manner to learn about the colleagues you know and those you don't!.

This week: René Bindels






1. Name, nationality, current function & department?
René Bindels, Dutch, Head of Department of Physiology (Theme Renal Disorders) & Scientific Director RIMLS.

2. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up? Can you tell us something about your childhood years. 
As a boy I was always interested in crafts. This started with building cars and trains, progressing into electronic devices (which never seemed to work), using chemistry toolboxes and growing my own vegetables. My school interests were definitely in subjects like maths, chemistry, physics and biology. My parents ran a wholesale food company, but as teenager I found my dad’s job too demanding (I should have known better). Therefore, I selected biology instead of economics as topic for my university study.

3. What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why did you choose that study/those studies? 
I studied biology at the Radboud University and combined this during my bachelor period with physics. After my PhD at the medical faculty, I did a postdoc at a renal center of excellence of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, USA. This shaped my expertise in renal physiology, for me the most interesting and challenging topic in science.

4. The RIMLS motto is ‘to understand molecular mechanisms of disease’. What does this mean for you?
Understanding mechanisms of living is a basic requirement in physiology and can be summarized as ‘physiomics’. Physiomics is essential to ultimately explore new therapeutic targets and treatments. Thus, THE approach to make the difference in personalized health care. We as scientists should continue addressing fundamental questions concerning molecular mechanisms of disease, preferentially through a multidisciplinary approach using a variety of methodologies.

5. Which international scientist inspires/inspired you the most? Please give a motivation why.
My great example in science is Bernd Nilius of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Despite the difficult situation at that time in his home country, Eastern Germany, he developed as a world-renowned scientist. He originally studied medicine and subsequently continued on a truly scientific path, studying the physiological function of ion channels. In this way he resolved the contribution of voltage-gated cation channels to electrical signaling in the brain, the role of chloride channels in Cystic Fibrosis and more recently the function of TRP channels in diverse physiological functions as taste, smell, pain, and mineral metabolism. He is also a highly talented jazz musician.  I admire his perseverance, dedication, intelligence, energy, drive and his honesty. I had the privilege to publish 26 joint papers with Bernd Nilius in the record time of only 6 years.

6. Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?
The identification of the epithelial calcium channel TRPV5. One of the first identified members of the Transient Receptor Potential superfamily of ion channels. Joost Hoenderop as a PhD student made this seminal discovery which has changed our field of research drastically. Almost two decades latter I now realize how fortunate we were. Presently, the gatekeepers of mineral transport in our body are known including their downstream molecular partners. Mutations in one of these components can lead to serious clinical phenotypes allowing the development of personalized treatments.

7. Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform? 
As a renal physiologist it is my long-term aim to resolve and cure all epithelial transport disorders. This cannot be done by a single experiment, but is merely a lifelong endeavor for many scientists and clinicians. I would use the unlimited finances to support midsized international collaborative projects aiming at these disorders.

8. What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)?
In general, I’m well organized and this is certainly reflected in my working area. My room is always tidy and this keeps me focused.

9. Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her? 
I would like to nominate our international PhD students and ask them how they experience their scientific life in Nijmegen in general and in particular within the RIMLS institute.

10. What type of person are you, quick insights:
a) Mac or  PC:
b) Theater or Cinema:
c) Dine out or dine in: 
d) Ferrari or Fiat:
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic:
f) Culture or Nature:

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