Nick obtained his PhD from Reading University, UK in 1996. He joined the group of Professor Hans Clevers in Utrecht the same year to investigate the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in intestinal development and cancer. Nick's early achievements included deciphering the role of the TCF family of HMG box transcription factors in controlling expression of target genes regulated by the Wnt signal transduction pathway. This work led to the demonstration that deregulation of this signalling pathway leads to constitutive activation of TCF/β-catenin target genes, which is the initiating event in colon carcinogenesis.
In 2001, he joined a Biotech company co-founded by Hans Clevers (Semaia Pharmaceuticals), where he worked as a senior scientist developing small molecule inhibitors of the TCF/β-catenin protein complex as candidate colon cancer therapeutics. In 2006, he rejoined Hans Clevers group as senior staff scientist, where his most notable recent achievements have been the identification of the Wnt target gene Lgr5 as a unique marker of adult stem cell populations in various organs, including the intestine, skin and stomach. This work also led to the discovery that the intestinal Lgr5 stem cells are the cell-of-origin of colon cancer and revealed Lgr5 as a candidate marker of cancer stem cell populations.
In 2010, Nick joined the IMB as Senior Principal Investigator, where he will continue to focus on the role of Lgr5 adult stem cells in epithelial renewal and cancer in organs including stomach and ovary. Nick also holds a visiting professorship at the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) at Edinburgh University and is an associate principal investigator with EuroSyStem.