Baylor College of Medicine recently announced through its webpage the nomination of Dr. Koen Venken, a scientist working on the development of pioneering technologies to identify cancer genes for new therapies, as the new McNair Scholar.
The program, sponsored by the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, supports avant-garde scientists in the areas of breast and pancreatic cancer, juvenile diabetes, and neuroscience.
Dr. Paul E. Klotman, president and CEO of BCM, considers the grant to be “a significant boost to our research efforts” by allowing the recruitment of “top candidates” like Dr. Venken, “the 12th McNair Scholar” from a group of “highly innovative candidates,” Klotman added.
Venken’s stay at BCM has been supported by more than one grant. In the beginning of the year, BioNews Texas reported on $2 million in funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to recruit Venken, who was already associated with BCM, but wasn’t until then “part of the tenure-track faculty at the institution.”
Venken will be able to continue to work in genetics and genome engineering to find new cancer genes through the observation of fruit flies. It was in this area that Venken has developed a groundbreaking tool, P[aman], a vector that allows researchers to create “a library of clones that cover most of the genome of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) and should speed the pace of genetic research,” as published by Science Daily in May 2009. With this tool “a researcher can choose a gene and find the corresponding clones in the library that covers that gene,” added the news website.
Venken graduated in Antwerp, Belgium and moved to Baylor where he received his Ph.D degree in Developmental Biology in 2007, working with Dr. Hugo Bellen, professor of molecular and human genetics in the project of the genomic libraries of fruit flies.
Venken will be assistant professor in the Verna and Marrs Mclean Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.