Van der Kant wins Tabor Award

Rik Van der Kant received the Tabor award from JBC Associate Editor Paul Fraser of the University of Toronto in December at the Zing Neurodegeneration Conference in Cancun, Mexico

Rik Van der Kant, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, received the Journal of Biological Chemistry Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award for his work on the biochemistry of early pathological changes in the neurons of Alzheimer’s patients.

Van der Kant was born and raised in Deurne, a small town in the south of the Netherlands. He began his undergraduate work at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands, interested in both biology and ecology. After completing ecological/marine biology and biochemical internships, Van der Kant chose to focus on cell biology. He did his Ph.D. with Jacques Neefjes at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, where he worked on the processes of endosomal transport and regulation by cholesterol and multiprotein complexes.

While with Neefjes, Van der Kant described the regulation of endosomal transport by the endoplasmic reticulum and explained how a multiprotein effector complex on late endosomes combines transport and fusion steps. The studies underscored the importance of these processes for cellular functions.

Mutations in components of the pathways that Van der Kant studied are thought to underlie rare diseases such as the neurodegenerative Neimann–Pick Type C and arythrogryposis renal dysfunction cholestasis syndrome. During Van der Kant’s graduate work, these pathways were also being implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. After earning his Ph.D., Van der Kant joined the lab of Larry Goldstein at UCSD with the intention to study the cell biology of Alzheimer’s. Defective tau proteins are associated with Alzheimer’s, and, in Goldstein’s lab, Van der Kant has identified regulators of tau phosphorylation as part of a large drug screen. He will continue his work by studying neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells and hopes one day to contribute to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Erik Maradiaga Erik Maradiaga is a biology major at American University.