Steenbeek van, Frank

Over the span of fifteen years, Frank van Steenbeek has passionately worked to unravel genetics in companion animals. As a multi-species cardiogenomicist, he sees a unique opportunity to improve translational discoveries by utilizing companion animal patients. Years of human-directed inbreeding have pushed man's best friends into diseased populations. He has always believed that companion animals possess tremendous translational potential, serving as the missing link between traditional animal models and human patients. He is strongly committed to achieving societal impact with his research in veterinary medicine, supervising molecular genetics research within the Faculty's Expertise Centre of Genetics to provide expertise on genetic disorders.

The Utrecht Science Park, home to the world’s leading clinical research institutes - the Hubrecht Institute, UMCU (human cardiology and national heart transplant center), and WKZ (pediatric hospital) - enables effective collaborations to position his research towards a strong translational angle in addition to the veterinary perspective. In 2019, he was appointed as Assistant Professor in the CardioGenetics group at UMC Utrecht. Integration within the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Regenerative Medicine Center Utrecht (RMCU) and within the UMCU Department of Cardiology allows him to connect fundamental and clinically oriented research questions.

In his work, he aims to combine the main aspects of companion animals being naturally occurring patient models for human cardiomyopathies: A reduced molecular genetic background leading to identical histopathological changes. Understanding both ends of this spectrum based on multi-OMICs approaches paves the way toward better comprehending disease progression and translation to clinics. His work was recognized in the human cardiology field, leading to inclusion in multiple (inter)national consortia focusing on human cardiomyopathies.

In the years to come, he aims to become the bridge in novel genetic collaborations between human and veterinary clinics. Human medicine would greatly benefit from a genetically simplified model with clinically identical complex characteristics that companion animals can provide. Conversely, in veterinary clinics, significant progress can be made by learning from human advancements, as both fundamental and clinical research in human medicine precedes that in veterinary medicine.