A brief history (aka, “myself in a nutshell”)
I was born near Antwerp, Belgium, and was the 2nd child in a family of 4 children. As a child, my big passion was always taking care of animals. Thus, it was no big surprise that after I graduated from high school, I decided to become a veterinary doctor. Towards the end of Vet School, I got inspired after attending a Michael Jackson concert to look at myself in the mirror, go out into the big world, and try to make a difference.
I was fortunate that at the end of Vet School, in 1989, I received a fellowship from the Belgian American Educational Foundation. I gained admission to start graduate studies at the University of California in Davis, which has the number 1 ranked Veterinary School in the world. During my PhD, and afterwards, I specialized in HIV/AIDS research. A big focus of my research was on pre-clinical development of novel antiviral drugs to prevent or treat infection. I feel humbled that some of the discoveries our research team made years ago have played an important role in the clinical development of HIV drug-based strategies that are now used word-wide to prevent infection (so-called “PrEP”; Pre-exposure prophylaxis) or to treat people who are already infected. In recent years, since 2016, I have also become involved heavily with research on Zika virus, the virus that when it infects pregnant women, confers a high risk of fetal abnormalities, that are collectively called the congenital zika syndrome. We hope that our current research efforts will lead to interventions, such as vaccines, that can then be used to immunize women prior to pregnancy and offer protection.
Although I am passionate about the research, I enjoy wearing multiple hats.
In 1997, my life changed when I was invited to present my latest HIV research at an AIDS conference in Chennai in India. There I met a social worker, Mr. Selvam, who told me about his work. This inspired me to enter a journey of becoming socially engaged, and eventually start the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Sahaya International. The story was also narrated in our documentary, Sahaya Going Beyond, which you can view at https://vimeo.com/65517422 or by scrolling below.
More information about Sahaya International can be found at www.sahaya.org.
As Sahaya International is 100% volunteer-based, I spend most of my spare time on it. Bud during my spare-spare time, I enjoy hiking in nature, playing tennis, spending time with friends, watching movie, listening to music….and dancing!
I am in the process (although I admit it’s slow) of writing my autobiography. A few chapters can already be read by clicking the link on the menu at the top of this page.
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact me.