Prof. Jan van Hest

Jan van Hest (1968) is Professor of Bio-organic Chemistry at Eindhoven University of Technology. He is a pioneer in the area of artificial cells and organelles, the organs of the cell. Van Hest designs and produces new materials and catalytic processes that combine artificially produced molecules with biological components. These materials are used in biocatalysis and for biomedical applications such as drug delivery. The chemist is also working on nanoreactors that can be deployed as artificial organelles in living cells to initiate reactions with enzymes.

Prof. dr. ir. Jan van Hest (Photography: Studio Oostrum/Hollandse Hoogte)

Van Hest is pioneering a new research field at the interface of polymer chemistry and biology. He was the first to produce polymersomes: empty spheres that can be filled, for example, with proteins or drugs and then inserted into a cell. With this technique, he succeeded in producing an artificial cell that simulates the complex behaviour of a living cell. Van Hest also made polymer constructions that are similar to the cytoplasm in cells, and he managed to repair errors in biological cell processes by using semipermeable spheres filled with proteins.

The chemist actively seeks opportunities to translate his research into applications. Together with the company GATT, for example, he developed a surgical plaster that facilitates blood clotting. In addition, he owns a large number of patents and is the co-founder of the start-ups Encapson, Future Chemistry, Noviotech and Noviosense.

Van Hest’s international scientific stature can be gauged from his membership of various prestigious organisations. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom, is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society, and received a CAS Fellowship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 2005, Van Hest became a member of The Young Academy, and in 2019 he was elected as a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Van Hest also has considerable administrative experience. For example, he is currently scientific director of the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems of Eindhoven University of Technology, member of the scientific advisory councils of the Leiden Institute of Chemistry and ACS Central Science, and chairman of the National Dutch Research School PTN. His previous appointments include vice-dean of the Faculty of Science of Radboud University.

Spinoza laureate Jan van Hest dreams of producing completely artificial life: a system that can copy itself and adapt to changing conditions. With his unique approach that combines his broad skills from chemistry, polymer chemistry and biology, the Spinoza Committee expects that Van Hest will make significant steps in this direction in the coming years.

  • Who is Jan van Hest?

    1968 born in Tilburg on 27 September
    1991 graduated cum laude in Chemical Engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology
    1996 gained his doctorate in organic chemistry from Eindhoven University of Technology, and for his thesis he received both the DSM Science and Technology award and the SNS Bank Prize for the best thesis in the fundamental engineering sciences
    1996 received an NWO Talent Grant to go to the University of Massachusetts for a postdoc in the field of polypeptide engineering materials sciences
    1997 became a researcher at DSM Research, where he later became a group leader
    2000 returned to academia: at the age of 31 he was appointed professor at Radboud University where he established a new group in bio-organic chemistry
    2005 elected a member of The Young Academy
    2006 appointed vice-dean research of the Faculty of Science of Radboud University
    2010 received a Vici grant for research into biologically active plastic nanocapsules that can reach errors in biological processes in the cell
    2012 became chairman of the National Dutch Research School PTN
    2013 won the University Education Prize at Radboud University
    2016 received a Visiting Fellowship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences
    2016 ERC Advanced Grant for artificial endosymbiosis, the phenomenon of a living organism living within a host organism
    2016 switched to Eindhoven University of Technology, where he leads the group Bio-organic Chemistry at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and the Department of Biomedical Engineering
    2018 appointed scientific director at the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems at Eindhoven University of Technology
    2019 elected as a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences