I attended the KULAK University where I obtained the degree of bachelor in chemistry. Subsequently I obtained a master degree in biochemistry at the KU Leuven where I graduated magna cum laude in 2004. In 2005, I started my doctoral research after successfully defending my research project in front of a jury and was awarded an IWT-grant. My research mainly focused on the computer-aided drug design of a novel class of anti-retroviral agents, targeting a protein-protein interaction. This study was carried out in close collaboration with a virology laboratory, and culminated with a (shared) first author publication in Nature Chemical Biology, as well as 4 patents, which were exclusively licensed to Pfizer in 2010.
Apart from my main project and teaching assignments, I was lucky to be able to work on a series of different research projects in collaboration with several laboratories during my PhD. These additional research topics resulted in several publications, and also broadened my experience, especially in modeling. I was awarded a 1 year postdoctoral fellowship by the KU Leuven research council, during which I completed several of these projects.
In October 2011, I joined the structural bio-informatics Team at RIKEN, Japan. After my arrival, I was able to secure a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship and a grant-in-aid to continue my work on the inhibition of protein-protein interactions using computer-aided drug design. For this project I started a collaboration with the chemical genomics laboratory to design novel inhibitors for their PPI targets, resulting in two publications. Furthermore, in collaboration with one of my colleagues at the structural bio-informatics team, I have developed a computational electrostatic toolkit (EleKit) that helps design PPI inhibitors. This development later resulted in two spin-off projects under my supervision and a total of three papers. During this time I also competed in the SAMPL4 virtual screening challenge, where I achieved the best prediction, surpassing established computational drug design laboratories and leading to an additional paper. Later, I secured a 3-year FPR postdoctoral fellowship, which started in February 2014, for computational protein design. For this project I collaborated with a protein crystallography laboratory at the Yokohama City University where I performed all the cloning, protein purification, biophysical characterization and crystallization myself.
After leaving Belgium in 2011, I became a guest-lecturer at the KU Leuven, teaching molecular recognition and computer-aided drug design, and returned to Leuven every year for one week to teach both theory and practical courses at Masters level.
Since the start of the 2016-2017 academic year I am back at the KU Leuven after obtaining an Odysseus type2 grant from the FWO and now head the laboratory for biomolecular modelling and design at the dpt of chemistry, faculty of sciences.
From 2005 to 2011, I worked as a voluntary travel guide (www.kriskras.be), organizing journeys for people aged 18 to 30 years, during my personal holidays. This experience has not only strengthened my communication and social skills, but also improved my organization and management skills. Furthermore unexpected events have contributed to my flexible attitude.