Peter Heutink, PhD

Scientific Advisor

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Peter has more than 30 years of experience in genetics and his current research involves genome-wide association and whole exome and genome sequencing studies. He and his team developed statistical methods to investigate genetic variation in gene networks instead of just single genes, as well as ways to efficiently detect epistasis and methods to better predict the causal risk variant in genome-wide association studies.

Peter spent much of his early career identifying genes for human diseases using positional cloning approaches and developing novel strategies for genetic studies for complex diseases.

After starting his own laboratory, in 1998 Peter was the senior author of the seminal publication by Hutton et al., describing for the first time mutations in the Microtubule Associated Protein Tau for frontal temporal dementia, an important step in understanding early-onset dementia and demonstrating that mutations in tau could lead to neurodegeneration which has led to a reformulation of the amyloid cascade hypotheses, the central hypothesis for Alzheimer’s Disease. His team has identified genes for Parkinson’s disease (DJ-1), Stroke (COL4A1) and other neurological and developmental diseases.

Peter has coordinated several projects to generate genetic and genomic maps for different world populations, an important resource for extending the scope of genetic studies to non-Western populations. His research focuses increasingly on genomic approaches to understanding neurodegenerative disease.

A main aim of his current research is to understand the biological consequences of genetics findings. Peter is a core member of the FANTOM project, which aims to improve the functional annotation of the human genome. With the FANTOM consortium he has published several landmark papers describing public resources that will be essential to understanding the biology underlying the increasing number of genetic risk factors for human diseases. His group has also developed automated high throughput cellular screening methodologies to investigate large numbers of genetic variations in their cellular context.

A few years ago, Peter and his team developed a new approach for stratifying patients and finding targets for compound generation, creating induced Pluripotent Stem Cell lines from patients with different genetic risk profiles and then characterizing them using genomic approaches to identify the molecular pathways that are disrupted in these patients.

Today he leads the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Tübingen Germany.

Originally from Amsterdam, Peter’s parents instilled an interest in science from an early age. “I got my first microscope at seven years of age!” he reflects. Peter went on to study molecular biology and became very interested in the use of genetics to identify disease genes.

“I value curiosity, quality and reproducibility,” he says of his approach to his work. “Integrity, teamwork and collaboration are also traits I look for in my team members.”