Scientific Advisory Board

Scientific Advisors

Prof. Raes is full professor at KU Leuven since 2013 and VIB group leader since 2009. His group currently consists of 30 scientists, with expertise in bioinformatics, systems biology, clinical research and microbiology. He has a substantial track record in microbiome research and has been pioneering the analysis and integration of meta-omics datasets (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metaproteomics, meta-metabolomics) with environmental, clinical, host omics and dietary data. He was involved in the FP7 MetaHIT and NIH Human Microbiome Project (the latter as only European partner), which laid the foundations for the human microbiome field as it is today. Finally, his lab is performing a wide range of disease-related projects in a.o. IBD, diabetes, cancer, IBS and depression and develops novel approaches and tools for microbiome research. Jeroen Raes coordinates the Flemish Gut Flora project, a large-scale microbiome- focused population cohort in Belgium, and is bioinformatics coordinator in the Tara Oceans project performing large-scale meta-omics analysis of plankton communities. He has received multiple awards and recognitions, among which a selection as FWO Oddysseus Fellow, a Francqui Chair and selection for Cell journal’s “40 under 40” promising young scientists. His 2011 paper in Nature was selected by Science as part of their “Top 10 breakthroughs of the year 2011”.

Dirk Elewaut is a Full Professor of Rheumatology and Immunology and Chair of the Department of Rheumatology and Immunology at Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium, a European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) centre of excellence. He received his medical degree at Ghent University in 1991 and his PhD in 1997 at the same institution. Following his postdoctoral research at the University of California San Diego and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, CA, USA, he joined the faculty of the Department of Rheumatology at Ghent University Hospital in 2001.
He has published more than 250 scientific publications and is Principal Investigator of the Unit of Molecular Immunology and Inflammation of the VIB Inflammation Research Centre. He has received several awards including the 2020 Carol Nachman Award, considered the most prestigious international research award in rheumatology. His research interests are centred around translational aspects of immune regulation to combat inflammatory arthritis and associated joint damage, with a special focus on the link between gut and joint disease in spondyloarthritis.

Séverine Vermeire obtained her MD degree at the KU Leuven in 1995 and a PhD at the same University in 2001 on “Genetic Polymorphisms and Serologic Markers in Inflammatory Bowel Disease”. She further trained at the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion, Paraguay (1993), at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics , University of Oxford (1997-1998) UK and at the Montreal General Hospital (McGill University) in Canada (2000–2001). Since 2003 she is staff member at the Gastroenterology Department of the University Hospitals Leuven and is appointed Full Professor of Medicine at the KU Leuven. Since 2016, she is Head of the Department of Chronic Diseases, Metabolism & Ageing (CHROMETA) at the KU Leuven. She is actively involved as principle investigator in RCTs with new therapeutic compounds and has been lead investigator on several of these programs. Her scientific work resulted in more than 500 peer-reviewed articles so far and focusses on the role of the microbiome and genetic susceptibility in IBD and on identifying predictive signatures of treatment response. Dr Vermeire participated in the International iCHOM consortium on development of Patient-Centered Outcomes for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She was awarded several grants including an Advanced H2020-European Research Council (ERC) Grant (2016-2021) and a VIB Grand Challenges project on microbiota modulation strategies in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases together with Professor Jeroen Raes (2018) Séverine Vermeire was President of the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation (ECCO) from 2014-2016 and of the Belgian IBD Research & Development (BIRD) Group from 2011-2013

Prof Van de Wiele is an Associate Professor from the Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology at Ghent University in Belgium. His primary research interests deal with the study of the gut microbiome, its metabolic potency, the interactions with the host and the development of methods to steer the gut microbiome in a health-promoting direction. Besides the microbial analysis of the gastrointestinal environment from animal models or human intervention trials, his group is broadly expertised in the in vitro simulation of gastrointestinal digestive processes and the mucosal microenvironment. Using dynamic human gut models such as SHIME®, a wide variety of candidate drugs, functional foods and/or feeds can be screened before a more narrow selection enters the stage of in vivo trials. In addition, SHIME reactor technology is now expanded with mucosal contact surfaces (M-SHIME) and epithelial cell cultures (Host Microbe Interaction module), which allows the study of microbe-host interactions, which are relevant in the field of oral and gastrointestinal mucositis, inflammatory bowel disease or obesity. The research of Tom Van de Wiele has resulted in a scientific output of more than 230 peer-reviewed international publications and the participation as invited speaker in many international conferences.

Piet van der Graaf is Professor of Systems Pharmacology at Leiden University (The Netherlands) and Senior Vice President Quantitative Systems Pharmacology (QSP) at Certara (UK). From 2013-2016 he was the Director of Research of the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR, The Netherlands). Before this, he held various research leadership positions at Pfizer (United Kingdom) between 1999-2013 in Discovery Biology (Head of Sexual Health Therapeutic Area), Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism (leading Translational Quantitative Pharmacology) and Clinical Pharmacology/Pharmacometrics. He was involved in a large number of drug discovery and development programs in multiple therapeutic areas and responsible for the nomination of more than 15 clinical development candidates. He holds several patents in the field of target discovery. From 1990-1994 he received his doctorate training in quantitative receptor pharmacology with Nobel laureate Sir James Black at King's College London and thereafter worked as a postdoctoral fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences at Leiden University on the development of mechanism-based pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PKPD) approaches. He was the founding Editor-in-Chief of CPT: Pharmacometrics & Systems Pharmacology (PSP) before becoming Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. Piet is a Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society and has (co-)authored more than 175 peer-reviewed papers in the area of quantitative and translational pharmacology.

Bruce Sands, MD, MS, is the Dr. Burrill B. Crohn Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Dr. Sands was awarded his BA and MD from Boston University, and trained in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. After completing GI fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and served as the Acting Chief of the Gastrointestinal Unit at MGH before moving to Mount Sinai in 2010 as Chief of the Dr. Henry D. Janowitz Division of Gastroenterology. Dr. Sands is widely recognized for his clinical investigations of new therapeutics for the inflammatory bowel diseases and has published over 250 original manuscripts. He was the lead investigator of the landmark studies ACCENT 2, UNIFI and VARSITY, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Hervé Blottière, PhD, is Director of Research at INRAE, the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment. He is Director of the Nantes Université/INRAE Mixed Research Unit 1280 PhAN "Pathophysiology of Nutritional Adaptations" in Nantes and Scientific Director of the MetaFun platform at MetaGenoPolis (Jouy en Josas). He obtained a PhD in Tumor Immunology from the University of Nantes in 1989, and spent 2 years at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. His scientific goal is to better understand the role of the gut microbiota in human health. He has developed a novel high-throughput functional metagenomic approach to decipher the molecular mechanisms of microbiota-host interactions. He is co-author of more than 150 articles and reviews and of several patents (WoS h index 41).

Dr. Jane Foster is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, a Scientific Associate at University Health Network and a Scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, ON. Dr. Foster is an active researcher in the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders Network (POND) and the Canadian Biomarker Integration Network in Depression in Depression (CAN-BIND). The Foster lab research team focuses on the role of microbiota-immune-brain interactions on neurodevelopment, behaviour, and brain function and aims to understand how these relationships contribute to psychiatric disorders such as neurodevelopmental disorders, anxiety and depression.