Johan Garssen

Johan Garssen is head of the Pharmacology division and an expert in Immunopharmacology with a strong focus on inflammation. Research in the Pharmacology group focuses on the basic mechanisms underlying chronic inflammatory diseases and their pharmacological manipulations via drugs, biologicals and/or medical food components. The objective of the division is to gain deeper insight into the pathways in which cells and mediators of the immune and/or central nervous systems interact, aimed to develop new concepts for prevention and/or treatment of (immune related) disorders with a strong focus on inflammation management and organ function restoration. Major target organs are the gastrointestinal, kidney, respiratory and nervous systems in both animals and man. The program follows an integrative multidisciplinary, translational approach: from molecular via in vivo animal models for disease towards proof of concept clinical studies in healthy volunteers and patients. The pharmacology group exists of three interactive research sections: Immuno-pharmacology is focused on the relationship between immune cells and their mediators in the development/maintenance and inhibition of immune-related diseases such as (food) allergy, asthma, COPD and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Neuro-immuno-pharmacology, integrated mechanistic research on the contribution of the gut-immune-brain axis in neurological as well as immunological disorders is performed. Recently kidney and metabolism research have been added to the group with a strong focus on regenerative medicine for which innovative tools, including organ on a chip technologies, are being developed. All sections interact creating unique concepts involving the diverse target organs. The Pharmacology group is aimed to develop, understand and validate new concepts for disease management.


Johan Garssen studied medicine and biology at the Free University, Amsterdam, Netherlands. He specialized in immunology, pharmacology and biochemistry and finished both studies in 1987 cum laude. He finished his PhD thesis at the University of Utrecht (Faculty of Pharmacy) in 1991 on the role of T cells in respiratory allergy, an immunopharmacological approach. This PhD program and a postdoc period was partly performed at Yale University, New Haven, USA. After the postdoc period (Yale New Haven, RIVM Bilthoven) he became senior scientist at the National Institute of Public Health in the Netherlands. There he coached many research projects, both preclinical as well as clinical research, in the field of immunomodulation induced by a.o. nutritional ingredients, drugs and environmental agents. In 2002 he became head of the section immunology at Numico-Research, Wageningen, Netherlands and in October 2008 he was appointed director of the immunology platform of Nutricia Research (formerly Numico and Danone). Since 2005 he was appointed at the Utrecht University as well in order to startup a strategic research alliance between Utrecht University and Nutricia research. Since 2007 he is Professor Immunopharmacology at the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences and still involved in managing a strategic alliance with Nutricia research (Utrecht/Singapore). He is managing and coaching many research programs at the interface between food and pharma including public private research programs with Nutricia, Friesland Campina, Bioceros, GSK, Johnson and Johnson and Bayer. Johan Garssen published over 400 peer reviewed papers/book chapters/patents in the field of “immunomodulation” with a strong focus on inflammation. He coached (promotor) over 40 PhD students in the Netherlands and abroad. He is editorial board member for several journals and founder of Elsevier’s “Pharma Nutrition”. He has contributed to various grants, a.o. NWO, EU, NIH, STW, TIP, TIFN, Inflame, CCC. RAAK-PRO and a Nutricia research strategic alliance. Budget > 2 MEuro per year including clinical trials.

More information can be found on his staff page