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Rob Willemsen, PhD

Prof.dr. R. WillemsenAfbeelding
Professor Functional Neurogenetics

Department of Clinical Genetics
Erasmus MC
Faculty Building, Ee971A
Wytemaweg 80

3015 CN Rotterdam 

The Netherlands

Email: r.willemsen@erasmusmc.nl
Tel: +31 (0)10 7043152
Fax: +31 (0) 10 7044736

The research of my group is focused on the cellular function of FMRP and the pathogenesis of the fragile X syndrome, using both in vitro studies (primary neurons) and animal models (mouse and zebrafish). Recently, research has focused on the molecular mechanisms and development of translational endpoints facilitating novel therapies for fragile X syndrome (e.g. mGluR5, GABA pathways). Ongoing research includes FTD / ALS and Parkinson's disease using zebrafish and mice as animal models.

Keywords: Fragile X syndrome, FTD / ALS, functional (neuro)genetics

Expertscape: link

Oration 23 may 2014
boekje oratie

oration book

Live version oration Link

Ongoing grants

  • 2014 ERA-Net project E-Rare (€ 1.284.120)(project coordinator)
    (Preclinical approaches towards therapeutic intervention for FXTAS.(3 yrs))
  • 2014 JPND (€ 250.000)(co-PI)
    (Searching for therapeutic interventions in frontotemporal dementia with C9ORF72 repeat expansions in the presymptomatic stage (3 yrs))
  • 2013 AFM grant (€ 60.000) (PI)
    (technician 2 yrs)
  • 2013 NIH; R01 grant ($ 500.000) (co-PI)
    (postdoc 5 years)
  • 2012 Prinses Beatrix Fonds (€ 250.000) (PI)
    (PhD student 4 yrs)
  • 2012 Erasmus MC grant (€ 50.000) (PI)
    (postdoc 2 yrs)
  • 2012 Program grant FRAXA Research Foundation ($ 140.000) (PI)
    Social behavior as outcome measure for FXS (postdoc 2 yrs)
  • 2011 Eurostars (Innoveren, Ministerie van Economische zaken) (€ 191.000) (PI)
    (postdoc 3 yrs)
  • 2011 ZonMw E-Rare; Cure-FXS (€ 219.228) (PI)
    (postdoc 3 yrs)


De Esch, C.E., W.E. van den Berg, R.A.M. Buijsen, I.A. Jaafar, I.M. Nieuwenhuizen-Bakker, F. Gasparini, S.A. Kushner, R Willemsen: Fragile X mice have robust mGluR5-dependent alterations of social behaviour in the Automated Tube Test. Neurobiology of Disease  75, 31-39 (2015).

Zeidler, S., R.K. Hukema, R. Willemsen: The quest for targeted therapy in fragile X syndrome. Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets 10,1277-1281 (2015).

Hukema R.K., R.A. Buijsen, M. Schonewille, C. Raske, L.A. Severijnen, I. Nieuwenhuizen-Bakker, R.F. Verhagen,L. van Dessel, A. Maas, N. Charlet-Berguerand, C.I. De Zeeuw, P.J. Hagerman, R.F. Berman, R. Willemsen: Reversibility of neuropathology and motor deficits in an inducible mouse model for FXTAS. Human Molec Genetics 24, 4948-4957 (2015).

Kwan, K.Y., M.M.S. Lam, M.B. Johnson, U. Dube, S. Shim, M. Rašin, A.M.M. Sousa, S. Ferruzinhos, J-G. Chen, J.I. Arellano, Daniel W. Chan, M. Pletikos, L. Vasung, D.H. Rowitch, E.J. Huang, M.L. Schwartz, R. Willemsen, B.A. Oostra, P. Rakic, M. Heffer, I. Kostovic, M. Judaš, N. Šestan: FMRP-Dependent Translation of NOS1 mRNA in the Developing Human Neocortex. Cell 149, 899-911 (2012).

*Vrij de, F.M.S., J. Levenga, H.C. van der Linde, S.K. Koekkoek, C.I. de Zeeuw, D.L. Nelson, B.A. Oostra, R. Willemsen: Rescue of behavioural phenotype and neuronal protrusion morphology in Fmr1 KO mice. Neurobiology of Desease 31, 127-132 (2008).

#5 of the most cited NBD papers since 2007

Award and Honour
Hagerman award for groundbreaking research on FXTAS and FXPOI

Additional activities

  • Member of Scientific Advisory Board Hersenstichting Nederland
  • Member VIDI committee ZonMw
  • Member "Instantie voor Dierenwelzijn" Erasmus MC
  • Member “commissie bevordering wetenschappelijk personeel” Erasmus MC
  • Scientific consultant Dutch Fragile X Foundation
  • Boardmember Scientific and Clinical Advisory Committee National Fragile X Foundation, USA

    FMRP test fmrp

New diagnostic methods to identify fragile X patients using antibodies against FMRP have been developed by my group. Currently, the diagnostic functional genetics unit is responsible for the FMRP diagnostic test for all national Clinical Genetic Centers.


Fragile X Syndrome 1st Edition From Genetics to Targeted Treatment

Fragile X Syndrome
From Genetics to Targeted Treatment
Published Date: 1st May 2017
Editors: Rob Willemsen, Frank Kooy

My research in the press

  1. De zebravis is het perfecte proefdier, Volkskrant Sir Edmund 2017 (pdf)
  2. GezondNu-De Kracht (én last) van Kennis-februari 2016 (pdf)
  3. Wetenschapscafé 25 januari 2016 (pdf)
  4. Monitor december 2015, Zelfde gen, andere aandoening (pdf)
  5. Volkskrant september 2015, syndroom FXTAS, 'Verbonden (en lang verborgen) gebrek' (pdf)
  6. Monitor 2014 - Fragile-X (pdf)
  7. Interview tijdschrift Endocrinologie september 2013 (pdf)
  8. Volkskrant 12 mei 2012- Kuur fragiele X op lange baan (pdf)
  9. Interview radio Wetenschap25/ Hoe? Zo! (Link)
  10. Monitor juni 2012- bewustzijn (pdf)
  11. Visionair oktober 2011-zebravissen en biomedisch onderzoek (pdf)
  12. Monitor maart 2011-zebravissen en de ziekte van Parkinson (pdf)
  13. NRC juni 2008- wetenschapsbijlage “de verstandspil” (pdf)
  14. Monitor 2008- FXTAS (pdf)