On Thursday, 27 January, the Herman Van den Berghe Fund was officially inaugurated. It is named after Emeritus Professor Herman Van den Berghe (pictured left), the founder and long-time driving force behind the Department of Human Genetics. The objective of the fund is to invite an internationally renowned scientist to Leuven for a number of weeks every year for intensive co-operation. The first such scientist is Professor Mel Greaves from the United Kingdom, an illustrious onco-geneticist – the field in which Professor Van den Berghe achieved great success.
Professor Eric Legius, one of the initiators of the Herman Van den Berghe Fund, explains the objective. "We would like to use the fund to bring a different top international scientist to Leuven every year to take part in a few weeks of intensive collaboration with a number of our research groups and to deliver some lectures. Our aim is to invite alternating specialists in the fields of onco-genetics, neuro-genetics and human genetics/development genetics."
"We are financing the fund with a small part of the Foundation for Human Genetics, which was established by Professor Herman Van den Berghe. Professor Van den Berghe was not only the founder of the Department of Human Genetics in the 1960’s and a successful researcher, he was also an active fundraiser in the scientific and business world. He retired in 1998 and this fund, which bears his name, is a fitting way to honour the work of the man who was the driving force behind the department for years."
It is no coincidence that the first invitee, Professor Mel Greaves of the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton (UK) is an onco-geneticist. Eric Legius: "Professor Van den Berghe himself conducted very successful research into the genetic abnormalities underlying leukaemia. And Professor Greaves recently published an important article in Nature about the diverse genetic composition of leukemic cells and how they adapt over the course of the illness. This knowledge will facilitate better treatment for patients in the future."
"The fund is indeed a wonderful token of recognition," Emeritus Professor Herman Van den Berghe says. He knows the work of Professor Greaves well. "An excellent choice. He has been a respected colleague – or should I say competitor – for years. I was the first to describe the genetic defect in congenital leukaemia, which Professor Greaves then converted into molecular terms. The result is that leukaemia can now be diagnosed via a PKU test on newborns."