Meet our Executive Board!

If you want to learn more about us, you’re in the right place. 

Current Board Members

Jessica ter Haar (Younes)

PhD

Scientific Director for the International Probiotics Association; Probiotic Industry Consultant; Founder of Women & their Microbes

Jessica ter Haar (née Younes) is currently the Scientific Director for the International Probiotics Association and is the founder of this conference. Her mandate at the IPA is to protect the integrity of probiotics, whilst driving the science forward. She also is a consultant in the probiotic industry focusing on R&D substantiation and communication of probiotics products/strains and business development. Jessica was previously a Microbiome Science Liaison and Dusiness Developer at Winclove Probiotics. She combines expertise in the female microbiomes and probiotics with a strong personal interest in vulnerable patient populations. The microbiome must become accessible and understandable for healthcare professionals and she is convinced that one way to accomplish this is to facilitate awareness and communication of high quality research between scientific academic, medical and industry stakeholders. Coming from a large family of all girls, she is naturally passionate about the importance of microbes in women’s health and will continue to dedicate her career to helping to drive change. Jessica has a PhD from the University of Groningen (Netherlands) focused on biophysical interactions between microorganisms within the vaginal niche. Additionally, she holds a Masters in Nutrition and Nutraceutical Sciences from the University of Guelph (Guelph, Canada) and a bachelor in Kinesiology (York University, Toronto, Canada).

Mariya Petrova

PhD

Consultant and Founder of Microbiome insights and Probiotics Consultancy

Mariya Petrova is a consultant and founder of Microbiome insights and Probiotics Consultancy. She is passionate about women’s health and strongly believes that by studying the urogenital microbiome, we can provide better health care not only for women around the world but also for their newborn babies. She is also eager to provide better health care by developing novel technologies with a focus on human microbiota, probiotics, and prebiotics. Mariya holds a PhD degree in Bioscience Engineering from KU Leuven and Antwerp University, Belgium. She has five years of research experience as a research associate at KU Leuven and Antwerp University, Belgium, and the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Her research was focused on investigating genetic, molecular and functional characteristics of lactobacilli, which can provide general knowledge on their exciting properties for vaginal (versus intestinal) application, as well as on the molecular interaction between lactobacilli and pathogens. Further, she investigated on a molecular level how vaginal Lactobacillus species can contribute to women’s health by studying cell wall molecules and their role in colonization, pathogen exclusion, and immune modulation. Finally, Mariya explored how to design bioengineered probiotic strains for heterologous expression of therapeutic molecules to be administered to the vaginal and gastrointestinal niche.

Elke Lievens

PhD

Science Liaison Women's Health at Winclove Probiotics

Elke Lievens is performing her research as a PhD student at the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, KU Leuven in collaboration with the Laboratory of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Antwerp University. She graduated as Bioscience Engineer in 2012 as a Cell and Gene Technology specialist and completed her master degree with an IAESTE internship in the Cell Biology team focusing on mycotoxin risk management (BIOMIN, Austria). Her PhD research focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which vaginal lactobacilli contribute to the vaginal barrier in order to maintain a healthy vaginal ecosystem as well as the antiviral potential of these lactobacilli against herpes simplex virus type 2 infection. Elke continues to be fascinated by the importance of microbes in the balance between health and disease. To actively participate in better women’s health through microbial management, she was determined to join the organizational committee to launch this 2016 edition of Women and Their Microbes.

Rebecca van der Westen

PhD

S&T Ingredient Science Specialist at Jacobs Douwe Egberts

Rebecca van der Westen received her PhD from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, UMCG, The Netherlands, involving the coupled adhesion of (bio)colloids to different types of surfaces. More specifically, she studied the physico-chemical interactions governing initial (bio)colloidal adhesion, thereby gaining insight into the properties and parameters involved in initial adhesion, and methods to prevent this. She is currently pursuing her career at Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Utrecht, The Netherlands, as a Science Technology Specialist, where focus is on the physico-chemical interactions of coffee ingredients with surrounding matter as well as dairy emulsions. Although not directly involved in women’s health from the science side, Rebecca is extremely fascinated by microbial management and how probiotics can benefit women and also people in general.

Yuliya Borre

PhD

Scientific Project Leader at Danone Early Life Nutrition

Yuliya Borre is a Scientific Project Leader at Danone, working as a R&D ambassador for the Early Life Nutrition Allergy program. Yuliya left the ‘dark side’ of the CNS pharma drug discovery and continued her career investigating the role of intestinal microbiota in health and disease: first at Utrecht University, the Netherlands; followed by a postdoctoral training at the APC Microbiome Institute, Cork, Ireland. Yuliya has a gut feeling about the potential impact of the microbiota modulating therapies on prevention and treatment of various disorders in early life. Yuliya is passionate about raising awareness and valorisation of microbiome research for impactful societal and industrial utilisation.

Past Board Members

Ruben Hummelen

Board Member 2016-2019

Family physician and clinical epidemiologist - Associate Professor Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Ruben Hummelen has the privilege to work in North-Western Ontario, Canada, delivering healthcare to 33 remote fly-in communities with a team of generalist working for the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority. His practice involves obstetrics, hospitalist medicine, emergency medicine and addiction care. In addition, he works as a primary care researcher, focusing on improvements in maternal-child outcomes. He earned his medical degree at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. During his medical training he completed a PhD focusing on the microbiome of women living with HIV. His research took place in Tanzania in collaboration with Western University, Ontario, Canada. Living in the most stunning place in the world he also enjoys fat biking, cross country skiing, sailing and swimming in the land of a thousand lakes.

Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic

Board Member 2019

Clinical pharmacist with Hamilton Family Health Team and NAMS certified menopause practitioner

Dragana Skokovic–Sunjic is a Clinical Pharmacist with Hamilton Family Health Team and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner. She is a leader in knowledge mobilization for probiotics in Canada and United States, translating scientific research in this field, she authored “Clinical Guide to Probiotic Supplements Available in Canada” and “Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in the US”. This practical clinical tool is independently reviewed and updated yearly in order to reflect the latest evidence and include new probiotic products on Canadian and US market. In 2003, Dragana attained certification as Menopause Practitioner with North American Menopause Society (NAMS). In 2008 she received Wyeth Apothecary Award for Specialty Practice, awarded by the Ontario Pharmacists Association to a pharmacist who has completed specialty education or training and as a result has successfully expanded his or her professional practice. She is actively involved as a Planning Committee and Board Member with the Canadian Menopause Society (SIGMA), presently working on the 2018 IMS World Congress preparation in Vancouver. Her work in the field of women’s health and probiotic influence on microbiome has been presented at International Menopause Society World Congress (Prague, Czech Republic, Sept 2016) and North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting (Orlando, FL, Oct 2016), and published in their respective scientific journals.