Hans Clevers is Principal Investigator at the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research (KNAW) and the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology and also Professor of Molecular Genetics at the UMC Utrecht and Utrecht University, and Oncode Investigator.
Clevers discovered how the Wnt signaling pathway dictates cell fate decisions during animal embryogenesis by controlling gene expression. Looking beyond embryogenesis, he unveiled the role of Wnt signaling in colon cancer and in its physiological counterpart, the self-renewing gut epithelium. Combining these insights, he described the generic stem cell marker gene Lgr5, which has identified multiple novel adult stem cell types. Against prevailing views, these stem cells could be expanded indefinitely as organoids: mini-organs that recapitulate healthy or diseased human tissue in a dish. Organoids are rapidly gaining ground as research tools in a wide range of scientific disciplines including basic developmental and cell biology, infectiology, toxicology and research on hereditary diseases and cancer.