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 Translational Neurogenomics Laboratory investigates the role of genetic risk factors in a range of neuropsychiatric and substance use 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.
Eske has a highly recognized international reputation in psychiatric genetics. She obtained her PhD in behaviour genetics at the Free University Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 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). Eske has published in highly influential journals, including Science, Nature Genetics, and Molecular Psychiatry.
Her vision for the next five years is to apply computational approaches to improve the functional interpretation of statistical associations in genetic studies of neuropsychiatric disorders and to generate a list of candidate causal genes that are targeted by pharmacological compounds to develop more effective treatment strategies.
Current QIMR Berghofer appointment
- 2016 – current: Group leader, Translational Neurogenomics
- 2017 – current: President of the Staff Association
- 2019 – current: Research Integrity Advisor
Other current appointments
- 2019 – current: Associate Editor Drug and Alcohol Dependence
- 2012 – current: Member of the Steering Committee of the IOCDF-GC consortium
- 2013 – current: Member of the Steering Committee of the International Cannabis Consortium (co-PI)
- 2012 – 2016: Professor of Genetics in Psychiatry (0.88 fte, tenure position), Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam.
- 2007 – 2011: Senior Researcher (0.88 fte, tenure position), Department of Psychiatry, Utrecht Medical Center, Utrecht.
- 2010 – 2011: Visiting scientist, Department of Genetic Epidemiology, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia.
- 2006 – 2007: Postdoc (0.8 fte, fixed term), Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.
- 2006: Postdoc (1 fte, fixed term), Department of statistical genetics, Wellcome Trust Center of Human Genetics, Oxford, United Kingdom – in collaboration with Professor L.R. Cardon and Dr D.M. Evans.
- 2006: Postdoc (0.8 fte, fixed term), Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.
- 2006: PhD student (0.8 fte, fixed term), Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam – the topic of the project was the exploration of genetic and environmental influences on attention problems and related childhood behavior problems, such as aggression and anxiety/depression.
Current Area of Research
- eQTL analysis
- Mental health disorders
- Substance use disorders (including cannabis, alcohol, smoking, and cocaine)
- Genome-Wide Association
- Exome chip analyses
- Statistical analysis of GWAS data from the COCAch study (Involvement of genes of the striatal glutamatergic and cholinerqic pathways in cocaine dependence in humans), (INSERM, France)
- Using predicted and observed levels of gene expression and methylation to interpret genome-wide association results of complex traits (Amsterdam Public Health-Mental health program)
- The role of rare genetic variants on alcohol and nicotine consumption (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam)
- The impact of genetics on stigmatization of alcohol dependent patients (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam)
- The role of genetic, psychological, and social factors on alcohol intoxication in adolescents (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam)
- The development of new statistical methods for the identification of genetic variants associated with complex (psychiatric) traits (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam).
- Identifying the role of rare exonic variants in alcohol and tobacco use (Foundation Volksbond Rotterdam).
- Professor Dorret Boomsma, Free University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Professor Jacqueline Vink, Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
- Professor Peter Visscher, UQ
- Professor Naomi Wray, UQ
- Professor Christel Middeldorp, UQ
- Professor Rene Kahn, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
- Professor Wim van den Brink, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Professor Damiaan Denys, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Dr Hugo Schnack, UMC Utrecht, the Netherlands
- Dr Lea Davis, Vanderbilt University
- Dr Eric Gamazon, Vanderbilt University
- Dr Florence Vorspan, Universités Paris Descartes – Paris Diderot, France
- Dr Dorien Nieman, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Dr Dirk Smit, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- 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.
- 2017: QIMR Berghofer Principal Research Fellow
- 2008: I was awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (2008).
- 2006: I obtained my PhD degree with the highest possible distinction (“cum laude”) in the Netherlands, this distinction is provided to less than 5% of the graduates. Vrije University Amsterdam
- PhD title thesis, Assessment and Genetic Aetiology of Attention Problems, Hyperactivity, and Related Disorders, Free University, Department of Biological Psychology, Amsterdam (Promotor – Professor D.I. Boomsma. Co-promotors – Professor J.J. Hudziak and Dr C.V. Dolan).
- Bachelor and Master in Psychology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (with specialisations in statistical methods and neuroscience).