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About us Medical Sciences Research Department of Genetics Staff
University Medical Center Groningen

Cisca Wijmenga, PhD

Lodewijk Sandkuijl Professor of Human Genetics, Spinoza prize winner
Photo by Ivar Pel
Photo by Ivar Pel

Study: Biology at the University of Groningen
PhD thesis: Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy: from genetic mapping towards gene cloning, Leiden University, the Netherlands, 1993 (cum laude)
Member of KNAW (Royal Dutch Society of Arts and Sciences) more

Inaugural lectures


Public lectures (video)

  • Glutenintolerantie Medische Publieksacademie, joined initiative by UMCG and Dagblad van het Noorden, public lecture by Prof. dr. Cisca Wijmenga, Drs. Gieneke Gonera, Gineke Venema and Jannie IJbema (71 mins, in Dutch), 19 March 2019.
  • DNA en de rol van genetica Kenniscafe Groningen, (75 mins, in Dutch) 20 Jan 2015
  • Genetica: feiten en fabels (50 mins, in Dutch), part of the University of Groningen 400th anniversary celebration, “Top of the Profs” lectures, 19 May 2014

Full CV Link


  • September 2019: Appointed rector magnificus of the University of Groningen.
  • June 2019: Awarded European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) 2019 prize. See interview.
  • October 2018: Awarded United European Gastroenterology Research Prize . See press release and a video interview with Cisca.
  • September 2018: Named a knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion during the Lodewijk Sandkuil Professorship symposium. See news.
  • October 2017: Interview in Cell about the future of Human Genetics pdf
  • October 2017: Television interview (in Dutch) with Prof Wijmenga about her research and her plans as a Spinoza Prize winner.
  • September 2017: Prof Cisca Wijmenga named member of the Frisian Academy.
  • July 2017: Waarom wordt de één ziek en de ander niet? Interview for City of Talent/Campus Groningen. "Vijftig tinten grijs. Het verband tussen genetische foutjes en het ontstaan van ziektes blijkt lang niet zo zwartwit als we altijd gedacht hebben." Cisca Wijmenga zoekt uit hoe het kan dat de één wel ziek wordt en de ander niet, ondanks dezelfde genetische afwijking.
  • April 2017: Keynote lecture to 27th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease “Our second genome in health and disease” is free to view here (slides and audio file). A short interview with her at the congress can be seen at
  • December 2016: Steps down as head of department after fullfilling the position for 10 years
  • March 2016: Made a member of KHMW, the oldest Dutch academic society (established in 1752)
  • News items 2014-2015 (including ones on the Spinoza prize)

Email: C.Wijmenga
Research website: Systems genetics
Publications: see GoogleScholar; PubMed


Complex diseases, systems genetics, bioinformatics, genetic association, pathway analyses, genomics, autoimmune disorders, celiac disease, IBD, diabetes

My inspiration

Research is top sport. You need the very best people and facilities, which I have been able to build up in Groningen. I want to discover, for example, why some people can carry damaging mutations in their DNA but not get sick. Knowing this will lead to new options for treatment and prevention. LifeLines, the UMCG’s large population study, is essential for this research. I am fascinated by DNA and the wealth of information that is hidden in our genetic material.
I greatly enjoy working with students and young scientists, and encouraging them to grow into skilful and competent researchers in a truly international environment. We have some 50 foreign researchers (of 22 different nationalities) working in the department. See map

See also comments from participants in my MSc student mentor group.

My work

My research is aimed at unraveling the causal genetic factors of some hereditary diseases. How does variation in hereditary material lead to disease and how can we use such knowledge to prevent or treat diseases? My PhD research focused on a relatively simple genetic disorder that is inherited according to Mendelian laws. In 1995, I was one of the first to take up the challenge to search for the genetic factors determining more complex disorders. My group adopted a hypothesis-generating, genome-wide approach, and was able to make great progress on elucidating the genetic factors for celiac disease, intracranial aneurysms, type 2 diabetes and celiac disease. We are now working on systems genetics approaches towards understanding complex diseases. See also Systems Genetics; Genetics of complex immune-related diseases

I am a member of the the Celiac Disease Consortium (CDC) and am active in two EU projects the COPACTIC study (on COPD) and PreventCD (on celiac disease). I lead the Genome of the Netherlands project (GoNL).

Top recent papers

  • ISI peer-reviewed publications (per 1 Nov 2018) : 649 articles, letters and reviews; total citations >37,000; h-index = 95.
  • Google Scholar statistics (per 1 Nov 2018): >780 publications; total citations 63,831; h-index = 123.
  • See all my publications in GoogleScholar or in PubMed
ERC Advanced grant
ERC Advanced grant

List of all PhD graduates

Supervisor (promotor) of 49 PhD students who have completed their thesis

9 have graduated cum laude; * indicates medical doctors (MD); # indicates those who have become a professor. Their research funding is given in brackets, where applicable.


Maria Zorro Manrique, Raul Aguirre Gambo, Kieu Thi Thien Le, Suzanne van Sommeren

  1. Isis Ricaño Ponce, June 3, 2019: Towards finding and understanding the missing heritability of immune-mediated diseases
  2. * Floris Imhann, May 15, 2019: The gut microbiome in intestinal diseases. Graduated cum laude.
  3. Patrick Deelen, May 6, 2019: Multi-omics strategies for detecting gene-environment interactions
  4. Vicky Matzaraki, March 6, 2019: A systems genomics approach to identify risk loci and pathways to Candida infection
  5. * Marijn Visschendijk, September 5, 2018: Inflammatory Bowel Disease: New genes, rare variants & moving towards clinical practice
  6. Alex Kanterakis, July 11, 2018: Integration techniques for modern bioinformatics workflows
  7. Juha Karjalainen, January 15, 2018: Gene expression studies. From basic research to the clinic.
  8. Marc Jan Bonder, March 22, 2017: The interplay between genetics, the microbiome, DNA-methylation & gene expression. Graduated cum laude
  9. Ettje Tigchelaar-Feenstra, December 14, 2016: From bugs to buttermilk: Epidemiological and molecular aspects of gut health (TiFN grant)
  10. Daria Zhernakova, September 12, 2016: Multi-omics approaches for better understanding of the downstream effects of genetic risk factors
  11. Serena Sanna, May 9, 2016: Enhancing genetic discoveries with population-specific reference panels
  12. * Javier Gutierrez-Achury, MD, December 2, 2015: HLA and other tales: The different perspectives of Celiac Disease (graduate school GSMS/ERC)
  13. Barbara Hrdličková, May 11, 2015: Finding the missing 'LiNCs' in celiac disease (NWO VICI grant)
  14. Rodrigo Almeida, March 25, 2015: Beyond genome wide association studies in celiac disease by exploring the non-coding genome (fellowship CAPES Foundation, an agency in the Ministry of Education, Brazil)
  15. Michael Erdos, March 18, 2015: Genetic etiology of type 2 diabetes
  16. * Guido Dolmans, MD, November 24, 2014: Genetic origin of Dupuytren’s disease and associated fibromatosis
  17. Harm-Jan Westra, September 17, 2014: Interpreting disease genetics using functional genomics. Graduated cum laude
  18. * Karin Fransen, MD, June 16, 2014: Inflammatory bowel disease: the genetic background and beyond
  19. * Rian Nijmeijer, MD, April 10, 2014: Genetic aspects of acute pancreatitis
  20. * Naishi Li, MD, December 11, 2013: Novel mechanisms for prevention and treatment of type 2 Diabetes
  21. Joanna Smolonska, October 9, 2013: The many faces of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (EU grant)
  22. *, # Ezra Burstein, MD, May 23, 2013: COMMD1: a modulator of immunity and NFkB activity
  23. Marcel Wolffs, October 31, 2012: Transcriptome analysis to investigate the link between obesity and its metabolic complications: type 2 diabetes and NASH (DFN grant)
  24. Agata Szperl, September 12, 2012: Mapping complex and monogenetic disorders: methods and applications (NWO VICI grant)
  25. * Maciej Geremek, MD, June 13, 2012: The classical genetic and genomic approach to the pathogenesis of primary ciliary dyskinesia (grant between UMC Utrecht and Polish Academy of Sciences)
  26. Gosia Trynka, December 14, 2011: Unlocking the genetics of coeliac disease (NWO VICI grant) Graduated cum laude
  27. Jihane Romanos, December 12, 2011: Genetics of celiac disease and its diagnostic values (EU grant)
  28. * Albertien van Eerde, June 8, 2011: Genetics of congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract.
  29. * Eleanora Festen, MD, April 6, 2011: Shared genetic background of inflammatory diseases of the bowel (NWO-AGIKO grant). Graduated cum laude
  30. Willianne Vonk, 17 March 2011: Understanding COMMD1 function: Novel perspectives from in vitro and in vivo studies (NWO-TOP grant).
  31. Florianne Bauer, December 16, 2010: Genes and diet in obesity related type 2 diabetes (IOP genomics grant)
  32. *,# Ramnik Xavier, MD (Harvard Medical School, Boston), October 11, 2010: Genes and pathways in Crohn’s disease
  33. Clara Elbers, October 6, 2010: On the origin of type 2 diabetes and obesity (IOP genomics grant)
  34. Jana van Vliet-Ostaptchouk, July 7, 2010: Revealing the genetic roots of obesity and type 2 diabetes (IOP genomics grant)
  35. *,# Alexandra Zhernakova MD, 3 December 2009. The autoimmune puzzle - shared and specific genetics of immune-related diseases (BSIK grant) Graduated cum laude
  36. * Victorien Wolters MD, 3 November 2009. Diagnostics and genetics of coeliac disease
  37. * Erik Knauff MD, 22 April 2009. Premature ovarian failure from phenotype to genotype
  38. # Lude Franke, 27 May 2008. Genome-wide approaches towards identification of susceptibility genes in complex disorders (BSIK grant). Graduated cum laude
  39. Patricia Muller, 25 March 2008. Transcriptomics as a tool to dissect copper homeostasis and COMMD protein function (NWO TOP grant)
  40. *,# Rinse Weersma MD, 17 October 2007. Genetic susceptibility for inflammatory bowel disease
  41. Prim de Bie, 4 October 2007. Novel insights in the molecular pathogenesis of human copper homeostasis disorders through studies of protein-protein interactions (NWO TOP grant)
  42. Alienke Monsuur, 3 July 2007. Unraveling the molecular genetic aspects of intestinal inflammatory disorders (NWO TOP grant)
  43. Martin Wapenaar, 28 November 2006. Genomics of coeliac disease - Molecular signatures of the pathogenesis (MLDS and BSIK grant)
  44. * Ynte Ruigrok MD, 16 June 2006. From intracranial aneurysm to subarachnoid hemorrhage: unraveling the genetics (ZonMW AGIKO grant). Graduated cum laude
  45. * Begona Diosdado MD, 21 March 2006. The puzzle of coeliac disease: pieces of the molecular pathogenesis (NWO research support grant)
  46. Harm van Bakel, 8 November 2005. Genome-wide analyses of copper metabolism and its regulation across species (NWO research support grant)
  47. Martine van Belzen, 16 December 2003. Coeliac disease: Investigation of the genetic factors underlying coeliac disease (MLDS grant)
Co-supervisor of:
  1. Jonathan van Tilburg, 10 December 2002. The Breda study: Search for genetic factors in type 2 diabetes mellitus in a defined Dutch population (DFN grant)
  2. # Bart van de Sluis, 19 November 2002. Identification of a copper toxicosis gene in Bedlington terriers (NWO research support grant). Graduated cum laude

My research group currently includes 18 PhD students and 7 postdocs, representing more than 13 different nationalities. Some come with their own funding, e.g. from China or Mexico. All recent theses completed in the Department of Genetics can be found here

About Cisca Wijmenga

More on my work, international activities, and work visits

Grants obtained

I have been awarded a total of well over €30 million for her research work on celiac disease, auto­immune and other related complex disorders, and for setting up new technologies. The new facilities have included a SNP array facility in the Academic Biomedical Centre, Utrecht University (2004), the Genomics Coordination Centre in UMCG (2009) and the Dutch Biobank Research Facility, NWO National Roadmap for Large-Scale Research Facilities (€9.8m) (2014).
In 2015 I was personally awarded an NWO Spinoza prize of 2.5 million and the University of Groningen Investment Agenda awarded me a grant for “Personalized Health” ( €2.9 million). In 2017 I was co-applicant for an NWO Gravitation grant: Netherlands Organ-on-a-Chip Initiative, which was awarded 18 million.

EU funding
EU funding

Other activities

In 2017 I became Co-PI on the Netherlands Organ-on-a-Chip Initiative (NOCI). I continue as Co-director of BBMRI-NL2.0 (since 2015) and am a Project Leader for Nutrition and Health, in the Top Institute for Food and Nutrition (TIFIN). I am also a Board Member of University College Groningen.

Since 2000 I have been a member of several committees in the Netherlands, including several NWO committees: currently member of the NWO Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly (RIDE) committee (since 2004), of the NWO Large Equipment committee (since 2007) and of the ZonMw TOP Grant committee (since 2008). I sat on the Netherlands Bioformatics Center (NBIC) Young Scientist Award committee (2011, 2012). I am on the scientific advisory committee ‘Career Development Grant’ of the Dutch Digestive Disease Foundation (MLDS), and am a member of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) interdisciplinary VIDI committee. More

I teach courses in 'Exploring Medical Sciences' at University College Groningen.

Last modified:07 June 2021 3.18 p.m.