Psychiatric disorders can form a large burden on a person's everyday life, and some of these disorders, like depression, have experienced a rapid growth in prevalence in recent years.

This creates a pressing need for efficient drugs. Existing drugs, however, often lack efficacy and can entail serious side effects. This project aims to improve the efficacy of antidepressants and shorten the costly drug development trajectory. The research focuses on depression and schizophrenia, and involves taking patient's DNA and comparing it to the results of questionnaires about their experiences with side effects and efficacy of taken drugs. This way, patient types and their responses to treatments can be classified. The reaction of patients to the drugs so far appears to be influenced not only by single genes, but by combinations of genes as well. Furthermore, several genes have been found in schizophrenia patients that respond differently to treatment; further research has to clarify whether these genes can be used as biomarkers. This research may eventually lead to treatment for psychiatric disorders that is more attuned to specific patient types, thus causing less side effects and increasing efficacy.

Fast facts
Full project title: A translational pharmacogenomics approach to improve drug development strategies for psychiatric disorders
Start date: January 2007
End date: July 2012
Goal: Improving the efficacy of antidepressants and shorten the costly drug development trajectory.
Principal investigator: Witte Hoogendijk, VUMC
Project size: 8,3 FTE's
Partners: MSD, University Medical Center Utrecht, VU University Amsterdam, VU University Medical Center


Psychiatric, or mentaldisorders are any type and pattern of psychological or behavioral symptoms that result in distress or disability and therewith hinders functioning in a normal way. There are numerous different variations and also different categories of severity. These variations include: anxiety disorders, sexuality disorders, schizophrenia, personality disorders, drug (ab)use, eating disorders, mood disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and dissociative disorders.

The exact occurrence among the population is difficult to determine as a large proportion reports that at some point in their life they satisfy the criteria for one of these psychiatric disorders. The diagnosis is usually set by psychiatrists or clinical psychologists. In almost all cases it is impossible to identify one single cause. Usually the disorder results from a combination of factors being genetic as well as environmental. For example, severe abuse or neglect during childhood may result in severe and complex mental disorders in adulthood. In general the major treatment options are psychotherapy and medication.

PhD theses from this project

Simone de Jong (project T5-203)
Network State of Mind

Jacobine E. Buizer-Voskamp (project T5-203)

Pieter van Bokhoven (project T5-203)
Molecular and Cellular Neuroplasticity in Animal Models of Depression

Afke Terwisscha van Scheltinga (project T5-203)
From risk genes to psychiatric phenotypes

“Running public-private partnerships is a profession by itself. TI Pharma is an excellent example of how you can do this in an effective way.”

Hugo Hurts
Director/Secretary of the Medicines Evaluation Board

Hugo Hurts
Director/Secretary of the Medicines Evaluation Board

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