Harriët Schellekens – Funded Investigator
Harriët Schellekens is a Lecturer in the department of Anatomy & Neuroscience and a Principal Investigator with Food for Health Ireland (FHI), University College Cork. She received a PhD in Pharmacy from t University College Cork, Ireland and a MSc in Biology and Medical Biology (Hons) from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She was awarded a Marie Curie Host Fellowship for Transfer of Knowledge (TOK) in 2006. She has gained considerable experience in the pharmaceutical industry in research and development, lead development and optimization at Organon NV (Akzo Nobel), during a 5 year stint. In addition, she has worked at Eirx therapeutics where she has been contributing towards building a focused drug discovery capability. Harriët returned to the academic settings in 2010 after which she has also worked as a lecturer and module coordinator in the School of Pharmacy, University College Cork. She has published several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters since her return to academia.
Her research interests have been focused on the neuronal circuitry underlying the complex relationship between stress, mood and food intake. In particular, her work has focused on the pharmacology of centrally expressed G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), neuropeptides and gut hormones within the microbiota-brain-gut axis, regulating the homeostatic control of food intake. In addition, these appetite and satiety signals also modulate the hedonic aspects of food intake and impact on stress-induced food reward behavior, which play a major role in the development of obesity and addiction. In addition, she is experienced in GPCR pharmacology, GPCR crosstalk and dimerization and has recently identified a novel heterodimer between two key GPCRs regulating feeding behavior, the GHS-R1a receptor and the 5-HT2C receptor. Harriet has established and runs a world-class cellular-based screening platform for the identification of novel probiotic-derived bioactives (or other naturally-derived bioactives or small molecule libraries) that modulate appetite and satiety, mood and cognition. Moreover, she is interested in the effect of nutrition on synaptic plasticity and cognition and has recently set-up electrophysiological capabilities to investigate the impact of diet, metabolic risk and gut microbes on brain function.