Coen Ottenheijm awarded with NIH and VICI grants!

Professor Coen Ottenheijm has been awarded with two prestigious awards!


Professor Coen Ottenheijm (department of Physiology, VUmc) has been awarded the prestigious VICI-grant. VICI (1.5M€) is one of the largest scientific grants for individuals in the Netherlands and targets advanced, excellent researchers. This year, 32 scientists received this grant. They were selected from 239 applicants.

Professor Ottenheijm focuses on the diaphragm, the main muscle of respiration. The diaphragm is composed of an intricate clockwork of numerous proteins. Inherited defects in these proteins make the clockwork lock, with life-threatening diseases as a result. A prominent example of such a disease is nemaline myopathy. The group of Ottenheijm studies how the clockwork locks, how this contributes to respiratory failure in nemaline myopathy patients, and which keys there are to unlock. In his research, Ottenheijm collaborates with physicists at VU University to develop novel techniques and with neurologists at Radboudumc to apply these techniques in patients.


The second award is an R01 grant from National Institutes of Health (NIH, USA). These funds (2.5M$) will allow Ottenheijm to study the pathophysiological mechanisms that contribute to the development of diaphragm muscle weakness in ventilated patients in the intensive care unit. Diaphragm weakness is an important contributor to weaning failure in these patients.

In his research Ottenheijm focuses on titin. Titin is a giant protein in the sarcomere, the smallest contractile unit in muscle. Due to its position in the sarcomere, titin can sense changes in muscle activity and subsequently communicate with the nucleus to adapt protein synthesis. Ottenheijm hypothesizes that these unique features of titin are central to the extremely rapid development of diaphragm weakness during inactivity induced by mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit. The research will be conducted in collaboration with professor Leo Heunks (intensive care unit, VUmc) and will partly take place in the second laboratory of Ottenheijm at the University of Arizona (Tucson, USA).