Universiteit Leiden

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Haico van Attikum

Professor Human Genetics, with a focus on chromatin and DNA repair

Prof.dr. H. van Attikum
+31 71 526 9624

Haico van Attikum is professor of Chromatin and DNA repair at the Human Genetics department of the Leiden University Medical Center.

More information about Haico van Attikum

Haico van Attikum is professor of Chromatin and DNA repair at the Human Genetics department of the Leiden University Medical Center. 

DNA damage response (DDR)

The DNA damage response (DDR) is a network of cellular pathways that sense, signal and repair DNA lesions. Defects in the DDR can result in mutations and genome instability, and can lead to diseases such as cancer. The Van Attikum laboratory employs a cross-disciplinary systems biology-based approach that encompasses genetics, proteomics, microscopy and bioinformatics in yeast, mouse and human/patient cells to identify the proteins that constitute DDR pathways, and study their impact on genome stability maintenance and human disease.

Research in the laboratory focuses on the following topics:

Systems analysis of the DNA damage response.
To dissect the DDR, Epistatic MiniArray Profiling (EMAP) is used to map gene-gene interactions within the complex DRR network. In addition, genetic and proteomic screens are used to identify and characterize genes and pathways involved in the DDR network. An integrated bioinformatics approach is employed to analyze cellular pathways and visualize DDR networks.

Chromatin-modifying factors in DNA repair and human disease.
Efficient detection and repair of DNA damage is complicated by the fact that genomic DNA is packaged into chromatin. Chromatin-modifying enzymes may help to overcome this barrier at sites of DNA damage. The Van Attikum laboratory systematically identifies and characterizes chromatin-modifying enzymes that operate during DNA repair and studies how these enzymes prevent human diseases. 

Ubiquitinating and de-ubiquitinating enzymes in DNA repair and cancer.
Post-translational modifications of proteins play essential roles in the regulation of the DDR. Ubiquitination is one the key modifications in the DDR, yet its functions are often poorly understood. The Van Attikum laboratory has identified several ubiquitinating and deubiquitinating enzymes and is examining their role in DNA repair and potential as drugable targets for anticancer therapy.  

Functional analysis of genetic variants in putative breast cancer susceptibility genes.
Missense variants in putative breast cancer susceptibility genes are routinely detected in patients with a family history of breast cancer, yet it is often difficult to predict a direct correlation with cancer predisposition. Many of the putative breast cancer susceptibility genes have functions in DNA repair. The Van Attikum laboratory is developing repair-based assays to measure the functional consequences of missense mutations in these genes, aiming at a better prediction for cancer predisposition.

At the Leiden University Medical Center, the Van Attikum laboratory is embedded in the Leiden University Medical Center profile area “Cancer Pathogenesis and Therapy”, which entails a multidisciplinary approach aimed to integrate and translate results of basic research in cancer genetics, molecular and cell biology and immunology into precision cancer care. The Van Attikum laboratory focusses on understanding and exploiting DNA repair mechanism to improve cancer therapy and cancer risk prediction. The research will also closely adhere to the LUMC Strategy 2018 “Merkbare meerwaarde”, two of the LUMC expert centers, namely the Center for Mental Retardation Syndromes and the Female Cancer Center, and the national research agenda, particularly with respect to the cluster questions 77 (on how epigenetic factors affect disease), 81 - 85 - 135 (on how genetics and cell biology can contribute to the development of better treatment regimes of rare and common diseases such as cancer) and 98 (on how to translate biomedical research into medicine development).

Academic career

Haico van Attikum received his PhD in 2003 studying “Genetic requirements for the integration of Agrombacterium T-DNA in the eukaryotic genome”. For his postdoctoral work he joined the laboratory of Prof. dr. Susan Gasser at the University of Geneva (2003), which later (2005) moved to the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research. There he started his work on the role of chromatin in DNA repair and genome stability. In 2007, he started his own laboratory at the Leiden University Medical Center, where he was appointed professor of Chromatin and DNA repair in 2017.

Prizes and honourable appointments

Haico van Attikum received several grants for his research from EMBO, HFSP, KWF, NWO (TOP-GO en VIDI), EU, en ERC (Consolidator). He has received the Young Investigator award from the European Environmental Mutagens Society (2009) and was awarded the C.J. Kok price (2012) for his achievements. In 2017 he was appointed president of the Netherlands Society for Radiobiology.

Professor Human Genetics, with a focus on chromatin and DNA repair

  • Faculteit Geneeskunde
  • Divisie 4
  • Humane Genetica

Work address

LUMC Main Building
Albinusdreef 2
2333 ZA Leiden
Room number S4-P



  • Nederlandse Vereniging voor Radiobiologie (NVRB) Voorzitter
  • The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) Member Scientific Advisory Board (SAB)
  • Elsevier Lid redactieraad DNA Repair
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