Jos P.H. Smits from the Experimental Dermatology laboratory of the Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc) was a recipient of the 2022 ESDR/SID Collegiality Award and SID2022 Travel grant. These awards allowed him to attend the 2022 SID meeting in Portland (OR, USA) and to present his work at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). Here he reports his experience:
When I was young, somewhere around my tenth birthday, I suddenly developed moderate to severe psoriasis from top to toe. Although topical treatments did help to some extent, the plaques on my arms, hands, and knees did never disappear. Having a chronic skin condition sparkled my interest in biology and medicine, with a keen interest in technology. These interests steered me to complete my masters in medical biology. While studying at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, I did a research internship at Prof. dr. Joost Schalkwijk’s Experimental Dermatology research laboratory at the Radboudumc. Thankfully, I could join his lab a couple of years later to do a PhD and study skin diseases myself. Now, I am already three years working as a postdoctoral researcher with our present head of the laboratory, Prof. dr. Ellen van den Bogaard.
During my PhD period, one of my projects was to investigate how well the human immortalized N/TERT keratinocytes – developed in 2000 by Prof. dr. Rheinwald from the department of Dermatology at Harvard Skin Disease Research Center – compare to human primary keratinocytes from our own biobank. We found that they grow and develop highly comparable in our epidermal equivalent cultures. We realized that these cells would be perfect for use in genomic engineering experiments. Lucky as I was, our laboratory secured a research grant that enabled me to continue my research and embark on a project fully focused on setting up the CRISPR-Cas9 technique to perform knockout and knockin experiments in human keratinocytes. Ever since we published our study on the N/TERT keratinocytes we have been sending out these cells on a monthly basis to research laboratory all over the world. I kept in contact with some groups I sent the N/TERT keratinocytes to, amongst others the research group of Lisa Beck and Matthew Brewer at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and together we wrote a chapter on delivery methods for CRISPR/Cas9 in the Research Techniques Made Simple section in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
For years now I have been an active member of the ESDR and last year I was fortunate to be enrolled in the ESDR’s Academy for Future Leaders in Dermatology. I realized early on during my career how important it is to be an active member of the dermatological societies and how fun it is to go to (inter)national conferences and speak with fellow young investigators and wise mentors. This year, my submitted abstract for the SID2022 meeting was selected for an oral presentation at the Concurrent Mini-Symposium 2 ‘Epidermal Structure and Barrier Function’. I am glad and honored the ESDR and SID granted me a Collegiality Award to combine visiting the SID conference with a work visit to our friends at URMC. Not only I had the chance to present the work we do in Nijmegen, I spoke to other researchers from the URMC and discussed our work and potential ideas and timelines for grant applications. I felt extremely welcome and appreciated the hospitality from all team members at URMC! Thank you so much and I sincerely hope our collaboration will lead to joint grant proposals in the near future!
During my visit in the USA, I had to chance to see the surroundings of Portland (OR), Rochester (NY), and New York City (NJ/NY) as well. The combination of science, nature, and history made my visit one to remember forever!