About Oncode

Read more about our core values, our mission and vision, the origins of Oncode and our founding scientists.

The collection of diseases we call cancer afflicts an alarming number of people, making it a leading cause of death worldwide. Every hour, five people die of cancer in the Netherlands. Despite tremendous progress, we still do not understand cancer biology at the molecular level. To outsmart cancer, we need to develop new knowledge and methods.

Our aims are to help more patients survive, to improve quality of life for those afflicted, and ultimately to cure cancer.

Oncode is an independent institute dedicated to understanding cancer and translating research into practice. The best fundamental cancer researchers in the Netherlands come together in Oncode to bring their research discoveries into the clinic faster. Along with performing vital basic research, Oncode is specialized in cooperating with third parties to guide its scientists’ discoveries towards translational and clinical research and novel diagnostics, drugs and treatments.

Core Values

Our core values always apply, in everything we do. It is the backbone of our institute.

  • Excellent - we strive for excellence in all aspects of our organisation
  • Collaborative – We seek synergy in collaborations to achieve our goals
  • Pioneering - we are driven by curiosity and dare to break barriers

Our Vision

Our vision is our point on the horizon:

To crack the code of cancer for a future in which everyone can survive cancer with the best possible quality of life.

Our Mission

Our mission forms the backbone of our strategy:

To accelerate breakthrough discoveries and speed up their translation into new diagnostics and treatments for cancer patients.

Our mission is built on three pillars:

  • World-class Science

Pioneering basic science is essential for increasing our understanding of the origins, progression and vulnerabilities of cancer. We invest in high-risk, high-impact basic research and state-of-the-art technologies, paving new roads towards developing transformative therapeutic strategies.

  • Collaboration

The challenges of cancer push us to go beyond the competitive model of science. We are a multi-disciplinary and collaborative community of world-class oncology researchers across the Netherlands. We work together in national and international partnerships with leading scientists, clinicians, and innovative companies, as well as patients, charities and research institutions.

  • Valorisation

A dedicated team of experts proactively identifies new inventions and facilitates their development into novel therapeutic and diagnostic approaches. With dedicated funding we invest in translational and clinical research, public-private partnerships and establishing new ventures. This accelerates the translation of breakthrough discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and society at large.

Why we invest in basic science? Our scientific director Geert Kops explains

Our origins

René Kuijten, a member of Topsector Life Sciences & Health (Health Holland), and Rudy Dekeyser, the former Managing Director of the Flemish biotechnology institute VIB, were convinced that a huge leap forward could be made if an institute were founded on the basis of these synergetic pillars:

  • Bringing together within one institute, with a shared mission and strategy, the very best fundamental scientists working in oncology;
  • Establishing a top-quality valorization team within this institute to translate the scientists’ research findings into new diagnostics, drugs and treatments;
  • Providing the institute with enough capital for long-term financing to allow genuine research breakthroughs and attract top international talent.

In 2012, Kuijten and Dekeyser began advocating for these changes to the oncological ecosystem, arguing that they could propel the Netherlands to a leading position in the translation of research findings into results for patients. Five of the Netherlands’ top scientists in the international field of fundamental oncology research joined forces with Kuijten and Dekeyser and began providing scientific leadership for a new institute:

KWF Kankerbestrijding (the Dutch Cancer Society) embraced the idea of the new institute. So did Topsector Life Sciences & Health (Health Holland) and three Dutch government ministries: the Ministry of Economic Affairs; the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In 2015, all the parties agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding in which they confirmed their willingness to contribute financially to what is today known as Oncode Institute. Several Dutch research institutes and university medical centres, the latter supported by the NFU (the Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres), expressed interest in joining Oncode. They became our Partner Institutions.

Her Majesty the Queen Máxima, General Director Ton Rijnders, Robbert-Jan Stegeman, Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven and co-initiator Réne Kuijten – Photo by Bas Uterwijk for Oncode Institute


July 22, 2015

  • The Memorandum of Understanding is signed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs; the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; Topsector Life Sciences & Health (Health Holland); KWF Kankerbestrijding (the Dutch Cancer Society); and Oncode’s founders, Rudy Dekeyser and René Kuijten.

April 12, 2016

  • The Dutch Cancer Society founds Onco Research, a temporary organisation whose purpose is to lay the groundwork for Oncode. One of its main tasks is to formulate a strategic plan.

April 12, 2016

  • Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, the host of Dutch current affairs TV show De Wereld Draait Door, invites Founding Scientists René Bernards, Anton Berns, Hans Bos, Hans Clevers and Jan Hoeijmakers onto the programme to announce plans for a new, world-class institute that will significantly advance the understanding, prevention and treatment of cancer. See the clip here (in Dutch).

July 27, 2017

  • Oncode Institute is incorporated.

August 29, 2017

  • The Dutch Cancer Society’s contribution agreement is signed.

October 12, 2017

  • A kick-off celebration takes place, attended by Funding Partners, Oncode Investigators, representatives of Partner Institutions, and other key individuals who have helped to make Oncode Institute a reality.

October 12, 2017 to February 5, 2018

  • Affiliation agreements with Partner Institutions are signed.

February 5, 2018

  • Oncode Institute is publicly launched in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Máxima; the Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, Bruno Bruins; and the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven.

June, 2018

  • As of June 2018, the founding scientists stepped back from the RMC to make way for the new research generation. They are, however, still very much involved within the Oncode Community as Oncode Investigators.

Oncode could not exist without financial support from our dedicated funders:

What does “Oncode” mean?

It starts with oncology: the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. With the aim of enabling advances in this field, our institute carries out fundamental research to gain a deeper understanding of the basics of cancer – the code. Onco and code: the fusion of these elements mirrors the unifying strategy under which the institute brings together top scientists.

What does the logo represent?

Oncode Institute aims to decode cancer, and that means understanding and identifying the harmful irregularities in the unique genome of every person living with the disease. Our logo represents a genome, including these harmful errors. In the digital version, a programming script generates a dynamic code. The logo signifies the infinite variation and ever-changing nature of cancer.

The Oncode Institute logo