An entrepreneur in the finance sector, Jean-Jacques Degroof has years of experience in the development, growth, and leadership of business ventures related to asset management. In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Jean-Jacques Degroof has worked in a teaching capacity at business schools located around the world, including a role as a teaching assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Earlier this year, MIT hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at its annual flagship meeting for Solve at MIT, an initiative geared toward the development and dissemination of technology-based solutions to global issues. In his speech to the gathered crowd, Trudeau spoke of the importance of embracing the changes brought about by global diversity and technological innovation, rather than adhering to outdated practices and giving in to fear.
The prime minister had previously expressed support for technological development and the sweeping changes it was sure to bring at other major tech events, including Google’s 2017 Go North event, held in Toronto. At this appearance, he spoke of his intention to lead Canada toward a future where the government invests in programs like artificial intelligence, robotics, and other “groundbreaking areas.” Above all, he means to encourage entrepreneurship in his country.
Luckily, it appears that the values Trudeau championed at MIT and Google are moving forward in 2018. He was recently celebrated alongside President of France Emmanuel Macron for entering into a partnership to study inclusive and ethical AI practices.
The holder of a master’s degree and a PhD from MIT, Jean-Jacques Degroof was a fellow at its Sloan School of Management. A venture investor and teacher, Jean-Jacques Degroof supports MIT’s Aging Brain Initiative and research connected to Alzheimer’s disease.
In May 2018, MIT neuroscientists published a study about the role of the APOE4 gene in Alzheimer’s. APOE is a gene that comes in three variants: 2, 3, and 4. For a long time, the APOE4 variant had been linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s, with people with the gene recording a higher risk of developing the disease. In fact, it has been documented that APOE4 is three times more prevalent in patients with Alzheimer’s than in the rest of the population.
Despite the link between the gene and the disease, the causative role for this relationship was unknown. The study by MIT neuroscientists sought to shed light on this link. Researchers stimulated stem cells extracted from human skin to create three different brain cells: neurons, microglia, and astrocytes. They then edited the human-derived stem cells’ genes to convert APOE3 into APOE4. The results were studied for their differences.
Researchers discovered that cells with APOE4 differed from those with APOE3 in gene expressions. These changes resulted in differentiated cell behavior. For example, neurons with APOE4 secreted more amyloid proteins, astrocytes with APOE4 produced two times more cholesterol than those with APOE3, and microglia, which function to remove foreign matter and amyloid proteins, were significantly slower when APOE4 was present. All these contribute to a higher risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
An educator and mentor, Jean-Jacques Degroof was a Sloan Fellow at MIT Sloan School of Management. A venture capitalist, Jean-Jacques Degroof supports MIT’s Global Startup Labs (GSL) initiative and was instrumental in organizing a 2018 program in Belgium.
GSL empowers entrepreneurs studying in partner universities with the technical information they need for the growth of their information and communication technologies. GSL develops a resourceful curriculum focused on startup growth, then recruits, trains, and funds top MIT student instructors to deliver the technical curriculum in the partner institutions. It also develops supportive software technologies and networks to enable participants to fully engage in the learning program.
Since its inception in Kenya, the program has now been offered in 22 countries, including Brazil, Ghana, India, Mauritius, the Philippines, and South Africa. Over 60 GSL programs have been delivered so far to over 2,750 entrepreneur participants globally. The program’s components have also grown to include business competitions, networking events, guest lectures, and demo days.
An accomplished entrepreneur and venture investor, Jean-Jacques Degroof lectures at business schools across Europe and the United States. An alumnus of the MIT Sloan School of Management, Jean-Jacques Degroof stays involved with the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.
The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship presents students with the opportunity to advance their entrepreneurial knowledge and acquire the necessary skills to establish their own companies. On September 8, 2018, MIT showcased its most passionate entrepreneurs and their companies at delta v Demo Day. During the event, 25 teams from 16 industries pitched startup ideas that they developed over the summer at the delta v accelerator. At Demo Day, the students presented to an audience that included investors, alumni, and the media.
The startups addressed a wide range of important issues and societal challenges, including those related to mental health, cybersecurity, and urbanization. Among the business concepts presented were Buddy, a digitized mental wellness trainer, and Hippo, a text-based application for managing professional and personal relationships.
With a master's and PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Jean-Jacques Degroof has served in a number of educational and executive roles across the globe. Philanthropically, Jean-Jacques Degroof has a keen interest in entrepreneurship education, notably at the intersection of technology, entrepreneurship, and the arts, and in issues related to ageing. To that end, he has supported a number of MIT programs and initiatives, including a research project exploring factors related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Neuroscientists at MIT recently completed a study exploring the way two genes affect the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The genes, APOE4 and APOE3, are involved in metabolism and the transport of fatty molecules such as cholesterol throughout the body. Though only about 12 percent of people have the APOE4 gene, researchers have found that 37 percent of late onset Alzheimer’s patients share the gene.
The MIT study investigated how APOE4 affected the body. Researchers found that its presence contributes significantly to the accumulation of the proteins that lead to the formation of plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. By editing the gene into the APOE3 variant in stem cells, the accumulation of proteins decreased significantly.
Why the gene increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease remains unknown, but the study, led by Li-Huei Tsai, the director of the MIT Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, reveals potential for future targeted treatments.
Jean-Jacques Degroof has used the skills and information learned during his studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as his extensive experience in international business ventures, to invest in rising entrepreneurs. In addition, Jean-Jacques Degroof supports a number of creative initiatives at MIT that bring technology, entrepreneurship, and the arts together. One such venture gives MIT students an opportunity to explore the technical and creative aspects of virtual reality as a modern story-telling tool.
Within the humanities department at MIT, students are working together to discover new ways to apply virtual reality technologies. Led by instructor Sandra Rodriguez, students from a variety of disciplines and with diverse skill sets are working to test the boundaries of virtual reality (VR).
The class is intended to explore the technical and artistic capabilities of this new visual medium and its resulting potential. VR is unique in that it can immerse people in an alternative world, revealing story components and characters at a depth greater than any previous technology. For the class, students have assembled complex projects that put VR to work, including games, interactive tours, and a documentary about life after incarceration.
A professor of entrepreneurship at several European business schools, Jean-Jacques Degroof has also mentored several young tech entrepreneurs. Jean-Jacques Degroof holds a PhD in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, where he has served as a researcher and supported the Aging Brain Initiative, which recently published an article on new research regarding a gene related to familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
MIT biologists have identified a specific gene that they believe may prevent neurons from getting rid of waste, which may lead to some symptoms of ALS. Their research is based on a study of Caenorhabditis elegans, a microscopic worm that experiences buildup of unwanted substances inside its cells when the gene in question is mutated. This buildup occurs because mutation causes defects in lysosomes, structures that usually eliminate waste.
Researchers believe that this function of this specific gene may cause as many as 40 percent of familial cases of ALS, as studies have shown that an enlarged DNA region in an area of this gene can lead to the disease. This research represents a step forward in the body of knowledge regarding the role of genetics in ALS. The success of future treatments may rely on research focused on drugs that can reduce genetic mutations while maintaining lysosome homeostasis.
With more than 17 years of experience as a venture investor, Jean-Jacques Degroof teaches entrepreneurship at several business schools in Europe. Jean-Jacques Degroof holds a PhD in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, which has developed a new course titled Blockchain and Money.
Led by Gary Gensler, a former wall street regulator and Goldman Sachs partner, Blockchain and Money is designed to introduce students to the world of blockchain, which has the potential to make a significant impact on the financial sector. The course looks at bitcoin, the first major cryptocurrency, and requires students to read Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, by Satoshi Nakamoto, the name used by the unknown person or group that developed the currency.
The new MIT course also introduces students to smart contracts and distributed ledgers, which are vital to blockchain technology. Moving beyond theory, the course explores real-world applications of blockchain technology in the financial industry and in payment systems in several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Kenya.
Alongside his work in venture investing, Jean-Jacques Degroof serves as an international lecturer on topics such as innovation management and entrepreneurship. A graduate of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Jean-Jacques Degroof continues to support the school and its research endeavors.
MIT recently completed a study led by Prof. Li-Huei Tsai on the gene known as APOE4, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and the buildup of amyloid proteins called plaque in the brain. The study sought to compare this gene with its more common expression, APOE3, by examining brain cells developed from human stem cells.
Previous studies had identified significantly increased amounts of amyloid proteins in people with the APOE4 gene variant. In the recent study, MIT neuroscientists sought to discover the cause of that difference by evaluating genes of identical genetic material with the exception of the APOE4 and APOE3 gene. They compared these genes in three different types of brain cells.
The researchers found differences ranging from dysregulation of cholesterol metabolism to increased formation of synapses in the APOE4 gene versus the standard APOE3 gene. Researchers also succeeded in reversing many of these differences in brain cells from a patient with Alzheimer's disease by substituting the regular gene for the variant.
Jean-Jacques Degroof, a self-employed venture investor, mentor, and teacher of entrepreneurship and investment management, is a frequent participant in the Charite Entrepreneurship Summit. During the events from 2013 through 2015, Jean-Jacques Degroof was a member of the summit's advisory group, which helps to organize the conference.
Sponsored principally by the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), the Charite BIH Entrepreneurship Summit hosts hundreds of global leaders in the healthcare field including scientists, entrepreneurs, lawmakers, and investors. These thought leaders come from all over the world and representatives from Europe, Australia, North America, and Israel have participated in the event over its existence. This event has been held for more than a decade, partnering with different countries to highlight their contributions to the field.
The 2018 Summit will be held in May, and will include topics from areas including healthcare technology, experimental research, and investment. It will also include the Life Sciences Venture Market, in which companies can present their findings to potential investors and collaborators in order to seek funding, advice, and interpersonal connections.