Frank Staal received his training at Utrecht University (Netherlands) studying Medical Biology receiving his Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Science degrees both with distinction (cum laude). He obtained his PhD degree from Stanford University Medical School in Genetics under the guidance of professors Leonard and Lenore A. Herzenberg. Besides defending a thesis entitled “Redox regulation of signal transduction and HIV expression in T lymphocytes” he learnt two important lessons: 1.the importance of conducting top notch basic science with a translational focus that directly benefits patients and 2. the importance of scientific collaborations rather than hostile competition. He moved back to his native country working at the Dutch Cancer Institute (Amsterdam) and subsequently at Utrecht University as Fellow of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW) with professor Hans Clevers. In the year 2000, he started his own laboratory as assistant professor (“Universitair Docent”, UD) at , Department of Immunology, Erasmus University of Rotterdam, where he became associate professor (“Universitair Hoofd Docent”, UHD) 4 years later. 2008 he and his group were recruited to the Department of Immuno-hematology and Blood Transfusion, LUMC, Leiden where he became full professor. Frank Staal also holds educational positions at Erasmus Medical Center and Delft University of Technology .
His research is focused around the differentiation of blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic stem cells, HSCs) to the major disease fighting white blood cells, the T-lymphocytes, both under normal and pathological conditions. This work is focused on three research lines:
1. HSC biology, with focus on regulation of stemness, self-renewal and differentiation by the Wnt and Notch pathways. We study this in human, mouse and zebrafish models, with a translational application in HSC expansion via gene modified stromal cells.
2. Development of T lymphocytes in the thymus and regulation of peripheral T cell function with emphasis on the role of Wnt signaling herein.
3. Development of gene therapy for various types of human Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). In SCID the normal differentiation process from HSC to T cell is disrupted due to genetic mutations in key molecules required for this process. We develop lentiviral, CRISPR-Cas9 and iPSC (induced pluripotent stem cell) approaches to cure SCID and other primary immune deficiencies
Professor Staal is editor of Future Science OA, Leukemia and reviewer for all major biomedical journals. He is coordinator of two large European consortiums focusing on gene therapy for SCID. His work has been published in Nature, Nature reviews Immunology, Immunity, Cell Stem Cell and other prestigious journals. He regularly holds numerous invited lectures, key note lectures and presentations to scientists as well as patient advocate groups and laymen audiences.