Eelco Van Anken, 2010


Career Development Award Project Title

“How proximal sensing and signaling determine adaptive versus maladaptive Unfolded Protein Response”, 2010

Who he is

A trained biologist, Eelco Van Anken obtained a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, before moving in 2006 to the United States, where he worked at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California, San Francisco. Since 2010, thanks to the Armenise Harvard Career Development Award, he moved to Italy, where he directs the research laboratory “Intracellular Signaling Pathways” at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan.

What he does

Van Anken’s work in the Californian laboratories was centered on oxidative stress, the cause of many degenerative disorders, such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, etc.

At San Raffaele he began investigating how this type of cellular stress acts on mechanisms of the immune system, and how it can be stopped.

Making use of a combination of imaging and biochemical techniques, as well as in vivo experiments, Van Anken and his colleagues are trying to understand what happens during the transition from an adaptive response to a maladaptive response. The goal is to be able to reverse this transition through new therapeutic approaches for diseases such as diabetes mellitus and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

News from the Lab

His research focuses on how cells adapt their machineries to sustain surges in protein secretion. Van Anken’s team discovered how cells compute to what extent the secretory machinery gets clogged and how cells take measures to remediate such conditions. Yet, if these problem-solving mechanisms fail, cells—through an act of self-censorship—commit to apoptosis. Currently, Van Anken focuses on how cells compute whether their adaptation to the stress is successful or a failure, and how this molecular decision-taking process can be harnessed.