Two VUB researchers win prestigious BiR&D Award

Two VUB researchers win prestigious BiR&D Award

Prizes for research into self-healing robots and megabodies by Seppe Terryn and Tomasz Uchanski

Two researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel have won the prestigious BiR&D Cross-Disciplinary PhD Thesis Award. Seppe Terryn’s prize in the Science & Technology category was for developing self-healing robots, which remove the need for expensive repair work. Tomasz Uchanski’s work on megabodies, a concept central to the next generation of tools in structural biology, won in the Life & Health Sciences category. They each receive €5,000.

BiR&D is an association of international industrial companies with major R&D operations in Belgium. Under the patronage of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO) and Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS), it presents four awards each year to doctoral researchers whose work has a strong multidisciplinary character and high potential for industrialisation. Their purpose is to encourage research and development in Belgium.

Self-healing robots

Terryn tested his self-healing material on three vulnerable parts of soft robots: a gripper, a hand and an artificial muscle. Controlled damage was made to these resilient, air-pressurised components. This damage could be fully repaired, without leaving any weak spots, and the robots were able to fully resume their tasks. See his full explanation in this video and find more information at His research was published in the journal Science Robotics.

Unravelling each protein with megabodies

Uchanski’s PhD research led to the discovery of a new type of synthetic nanobody-based antibodies, known as megabodies. The combination of this innovative megabody technology and the use of the cryo-electron microscope make it possible to unravel the structure of almost any protein down to atomic level. This can considerably accelerate research into new drugs. The research has been published in three papers, two of which are in Nature, and is protected in a patent application. Megabodies are now being used by, among others, drug discovery company Confo Therapeutics. You can read more about his research here.


More information about the BiR&D network can be found at


Seppe Terryn

0499 26 74 73

Tomasz Uchanski

0483 311 442

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