Our People

Eske Derks

Professor | Group Leader

Translational Neurogenomics

+61 7 3362 0169




Professor Eske Derks is Professor of Psychiatric Genetics and Group Leader of the Translational Neurogenomics Laboratory and as such plays an important role in identifying gene mechanisms that increase the risk of mental health disorders. The overarching objective of her research is to understand the downstream molecular consequences underlying statistical associations as this will be essential for translating genetic findings into the clinic.

Professor Derks has a highly recognised international reputation in psychiatric genetics. She obtained her PhD in behaviour genetics at the Free University Amsterdam. Her research program investigates biological mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disease by investigating the impact of genetic risk factors on gene expression. She was the first to integrate genetic and transcriptomic data from 13 brain tissues to improve the functional interpretation of genetic findings for five psychiatric disorders (Nature Genetics, in press, senior author) and other complex traits (Nature Genetics, 2018). As co-PI of the International Cannabis Consortium (ICC), she has led three large meta-analyses on the genetics of cannabis use; the latest initiative included 184,765 subjects and revealed 35 genes associated with cannabis use. She is a member of the executive board of the OCD group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC). Professor Derks has published in highly influential journals, including Science, Nature Genetics, and Molecular Psychiatry.



2016-current: Group leader, Translational Neurogenomics QIMR, Berghofer

2019-current: Associate Editor Drug and Alcohol Dependence

2013-current: Member of the Steering Committee of the International Cannabis Consortium (co-PI)

2012-current: Member of the Steering Committee of the IOCDF-GC consortium



2012-2016: Professor of Genetics in Psychiatry (tenure position), Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam

2007-2011: Senior Researcher (tenure position), Department of Psychiatry, Utrecht Medical Center

2010-2011: Visiting scientist, Department of Genetic Epidemiology, QIMR Berghofer

2006-2007: Postdoc (fixed term), Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

2006: Postdoc (fixed term), Department of statistical genetics, Wellcome Trust Center of Human Genetics, Oxford – in collaboration with Professor L.R. Cardon and Dr D.M. Evans









  • genetics
  • eQTL analysis
  • mental health disorders
  • schizophrenia
  • substance use disorders (including cannabis, alcohol, smoking, and cocaine)
  • genome-Wide Association
  • exome chip analyses



  • Gamazon ER, .., Derks EM (in press) Multi-tissue transcriptome analysis reveals genetic mechanisms of neuropsychiatric traits. Nature Genetics 
  • Pasman JA,., Derks EM*, Vink JM (2018) GWAS of lifetime cannabis use reveals new risk loci, genetic overlap with psychiatric traits, and a causal influence of schizophrenia. Nature Neuroscience, 21,1161-70 *shared senior author
  • Minica CC,.., Derks EM (2018) Genome-Wide Association Meta-Analysis of Age at First Cannabis Use. Addiction, 113, 2073-86
  • Spanagel R,., Derks, EM (2013) A systems medicine research approach for studying alcohol addiction.  Addiction Biology, 18, 883-96
  • Derks EM et al (2012) Kraepelin was right: a latent class analysis of symptom dimensions in patients and controls. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 38, 495-505



2010-present: Member of the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics



2019: Shortlisted for the Georgina Sweet Award for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science

2017: QIMR Berghofer Principal Research Fellow

2008: fellowship from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (VENI)

2006: obtained my PhD degree with the highest possible distinction (“cum laude”) in the Netherlands, awarded to less than 5% of graduates

2004: Finalist Fulker Award (award ‘a particularly meritorious paper’ published in Behavior Genetics)

2003: Young Investigator travel award Netherlands Society of Scientific Research (NWO)

2002: Young Investigator travel award Netherlands Society of Scientific Research (NWO)



2001-2006: PhD, Department of Biological Psychology, Free University Amsterdam
PhD title thesis, Assessment and Genetic Aetiology of Attention Problems, Hyperactivity, and Related Disorders, (Promotor – Professor D.I. Boomsma. Co-promotors – Professor J.J. Hudziak and Dr C.V. Dolan)

1997-2001: Bachelor and Master in Psychology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (with specialisations in statistical methods and neuroscience)