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EUR 3.4 million for research into biomarkers for depression

09 June 2010

Information about the chemical processes that play a role in depression is being combined with high-tech chemical analysis in the Brainlabs innovation project. The aim is to introduce a usable diagnostic instrument based on biomarkers to the market.

The University of Groningen, the University Medical Center Groningen, Wageningen UR and the companies Lionix BV, Zebra Bioscience BV, Bohlmeijer Holding BV and Brainlabs BV have signed a cooperation agreement to this end for a period of four years. The project is being subsidized by a grant of EUR 3.4 million from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel and the involved parties.

According to current insights, psychiatric disorders are linked to changes in the biochemistry of the brain. The starting point for the biomarker project is that these changes can be partially identified in the blood and urine of patients. After an extensive literature search for chemical compounds in blood and urine that could be linked to depression, a total of 45 promising candidates have been selected.

The idea is that the correct combination of biomarkers can clearly identify depression and its healing process. The research should lead to a practicable measurement instrument for both GPs and psychiatrists.

In order to make biomarkers usable in practice for first and second-line health care, GPs and specialists, innovative technology is needed. This is why the Brainlabs project will be developing various measurement methods that can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of depressive disorders.

One method will be to use optical chips and new technology to attach molecules to these chips. This will make it possible to measure the biomarkers with a great degree of specificity and sensitivity.

The first phase of the research project will be directed towards developing these innovative measurement techniques. The second phase of the research project will test the applicability in practice on patients with depression, both before and after intervention with an anti-depressant.

Depression disorders are very common. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2020 depression will even be the second greatest contributor to the global burden of disease. At this moment in time, about 850,000 Dutch citizens suffer from one form of depression or another.

The scientific research into the effects of various interventions on biomarkers for depression forms part of a programme in which the Biological Psychiatry and Molecular Neurobiology research groups of the University of Groningen (RUG) and the University Medical Center Groningen participate.

For more information, please go to


Prof. J.A. den Boer, Biological Psychiatry UMCG/RUG, +31503612200, email:

Prof. P.G.M.Luiten, Molecular Neurobiology, RUG, +31503632359,

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.29 p.m.

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