Genetics Towards an expert center for personalised genomics that brings new genetic knowledge to clinical application Department
Nothing is more personal than genetics. Everyone carries distinct genetic variants that can impact their health, but not everyone becomes ill. We seek to know why.

Our mission is to improve health and healthcare by identifying how genetics, both human genetics and that of our microbiomes, interact with each other and with the environment in which we live. We revolutionise at every level, from ground-breaking fundamental research to cutting-edge diagnostics to forefront clinical care that respects and understands the people we serve.

Our work covers the entire cycle of medical knowledge. We carry out basic research to understand the human genome and its interactions with the environment and microbiome and to identify the genetic causes of disease. To probe this complex data, we develop new data technologies and bioinformatic approaches. To confirm the mechanisms we discover, we pioneer new lab approaches. Along the way, we constantly search for how these innovations can prevent, diagnose and cure disease.

We do all this fundamental research with the patient in mind, from population health studies to rare disease discovery to ethical studies on how to share complex genetic findings with individuals.

Personalised medicine begins with genetics. We strive to make it a reality.

This page is under construction. You can read more about our research on the RUG website.

Relevance

Genetics is the future

We all carry genetic variants that can impact our health, but not everyone becomes ill. Our work is aimed at sorting out who becomes sick and why – and who stays healthy – information that is critical to building better healthcare. Personal genetic data is likely to be a part of everyone’s future medical care, whether it is used to provide a faster diagnosis, better long-term health advice, more effective personalised medication, or new forms of treatment or cure. Our research mission is to make this promise a reality through the development of functional genomics strategies and experimental techniques that identify the key genes and pathways that drive disease.

Our work aligns perfectly with the research strategy of the UMCG: we work on mechanisms of disease and develop innovative treatments and new prevention strategies. We also drive education by bringing these new technologies and discoveries into the classroom, and we are at the forefront of new ways to screen, diagnose, counsel and assist individuals.

  • We are an active and driven department of more than 350 researchers, clinicians, data and lab specialists and support staff who collaborate across groups that specialise in complex diseases, rare monogenic disorders, cutting-edge bioinformatics, big data analysis, microbiome and exposome, ELSI applications and new diagnostics. The Department is also home to the Genomics Coordination Center, the EUROCAT birth registry and the Lifelines NEXT mother-baby cohort. We are connected to the community around us through collaboration, teaching and outreach.

    We collaborate

    We work very closely with the Lifelines population cohort and biobank and with patient cohorts within the UMCG to establish the causes of health and disease in the Northern region of the Netherlands. Nationally, we are critically involved in biobanking efforts through BBMRI and Health-RI, in the development of organ-on-chip methods within the Netherlands Organ on Chip Initiative and in the exploration of the exposome through the Exposome NL project. We also collaborate closely with researchers at other Dutch hospitals and universities and have long-standing collaborations with researchers across the world.

    We teach

    As a joint research and clinical department, we are involved in educating the doctors and researchers of the future, and members of the department teach and develop curriculum for courses in systems medicine and big data approaches in medicine, as well as many other programs. We also mentor students through their master’s research internships, and many continue on with us to carry out PhD research. Finally, we are home to more than 50 PhD and postdoctoral researchers, who are the beating heart of our research programs.

    We reach out

    Members of our department have pioneered new ways to directly involve patients with rare monogenic disorders and their families in research through social media. We are also at the forefront of research into the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of genetic healthcare – piloting programs for the ethical implementation of preconception screening and carrying out research into how to communicate genetic findings to patients, carriers and families. We also create new ways of communicating research directly. Very early in the COVID-19 pandemic members of the department designed and implemented the Corona Barometer website to share Lifelines COVID-19 questionnaire results with the public, a format that provided a model for later national efforts and continuously updated our community about how people in the Northern Netherlands were experiencing the effects of the pandemic.

  • Our department combines forefront fundamental genetics research with cutting-edge diagnostics and advanced clinical care. We carry out high-profile research into the causes of monogenic and complex genetic diseases by applying next generation sequencing and omics technologies to population and disease cohorts. To do this research, we build better cohorts and develop new in vitro and in silico technologies to explore and understand the effects of genetics and how genetics interacts with our environment. To bring this scientific knowledge to the clinic, we develop new diagnostic approaches and new ways of communicating genetic information.

    The population-based cohorts in which we have generated (single-cell) multi-omics data enable us to identify associations between genome, epigenome, gene expression, proteome, metabolome, microbiome and disease. In the last five years, these functional genomics strategies have generated novel scientific insights for many different types of diseases that we are now following-up using CRISPR, iPSC, organoids and organs-on-a-chip in order to gain deep mechanistic insight into the key determinants of disease.

    Our recent bench-to-bedside successes include:

    • Increases in the diagnostic yield of exome and genome sequencing
    • A method to differentiate between inflammatory bowel disease & irritable bowel syndrome using gut microbiome data
    • Polygenic risk scores (e.g. for cardiovascular disease)
    • Pharmacogenetics passports
    • Identification of drug targets and biomarkers
    • Discovery of environmental factors that help prevent disease (e.g. specific microbes)
    • Continuous monitoring of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental health
    • Rapid exome screening for serious monogenic disorders
    • Rapid exome/genome screening for seriously ill newborns
    • Introduction of preconception carrier screening of serious non-treatable autosomal recessive disorders

Contact

Department of Genetics
University Medical Center Groningen
Postbus 30.001
9700 RB Groningen
The Netherlands

Location in UMCG

Department of Genetics
University Medical Centre Groningen
Medical Faculty building (building 3211), 5th floor
Antonius Deusinglaan 1
9713 AV Groningen, the Netherlands