The team

Meet the Team

Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry

Elisabeth Binder is the Director of the Department of Genes and Environment at the Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Germany, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, USA. Her main research interests include identifying molecular moderators of the response to environmental factors, with a focus on early adverse environment and gene x environment interactions. She uses different omics approaches, including gene regulation, to evaluate large human cohorts and induced pluripotent stem-cell-derived models. The ultimate goal of her research is to develop novel prevention and treatment strategies for psychiatric diseases.

Sanne Berkers is a Ph.D. student in the Binder Lab at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and is part of Work Package 4 in the Youth-GEMs project. Her research focuses on identifying genetic variants that influence stress-sensitive gene regulatory elements.

With a deep understanding of the importance of mental health and its impact on overall wellbeing, Sanne believes that a better understanding of the underlying processes of mental health diseases is critical for effective intervention. She is committed to making significant contributions towards improved therapeutics in this field.

Contact Sanne here

The University of Exeter

Jonathan Mill is the Professor of Epigenomics and Head of Department for Clinical & Biomedical Sciences at the University of Exeter, UK. His research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of genomic variation in the human brain and its role in mental illness and other brain disorders. He co-leads WP4 in Youth-GEMs, which aims to characterize patterns of epigenomic and transcriptional regulation during key points in prenatal development and early childhood. He is particularly interested in studying molecular marks that potentially play a role at the interface between both genetic and non-genetic risk factors.

Contact Jonathan here

Dr. Jonathan P. Davies is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Exeter, UK. He has an interest in human brain development and its possible associations with neuropsychiatric disorders and mental health. He will be working with Professor Jonathan Mill on work package four to expand their research on the regulatory genomics of neurodevelopment throughout fetal, childhood, and young adult human brains.

Contact Jonathan here

Dr. Gina Commin is a Research Assistant at the University of Exeter, UK, working with Professor Jonathan Mill. Her research interests include the role of epigenetics in the developing human brain and its influence on mental health trajectories. She will be contributing to work package four in Youth-GEMs, helping to characterize patterns of genomic regulation from human cortex samples.

UMC Utrecht

Prof. Dr. Jeroen Pasterkamp is a Professor at UMC Utrecht, the Netherlands, and Chair of the UMC Utrecht Brain Center. He translates (epi)genetic findings towards human neurons using induced pluripotent stem cell technology and genome editing to further understand disease mechanisms and perform therapy development. He joined Youth-GEMs to help find ways to better treat psychiatric patients with limited resources.

Maastricht University

Introducing Bart Rutten (MD, PhD), a distinguished psychiatrist and neuroscientist leading innovative research at Maastricht University Medical Centre. He coordinates multinational projects exploring gene-environment interactions and the interplay of neurobiology in mental health. Since 2022, Bart leads the trans-syndromal approach of the HORIZON Europe funded “Youth-GEMs” project, focusing on young individuals’ mental phenotypes and underlying gene-environment dynamics.

Dr. Sinan Guloksuz is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, the Netherlands. He serves as the Vice Coordinator and Work-Package Leader (Data Inference) in the Youth-GEMs project. With a clinical psychiatry and epidemiology background, his main research interest is understanding the role of gene-environment interaction in youth mental health trajectories by analyzing large youth cohorts and clinical populations.

Contact Sinan here

Therese van Amelsvoort is an academic psychiatrist and Professor in Transitional Psychiatry. She trained at Maudsley & Bethlem NHS/IoP/KCL (London) and currently leads the Mental Health academic research group of Maastricht University. She has obtained funding for, and supervised over 30 PhD projects and has been running the National Adult 22q11DS Centre of Expertise for 20 years. In addition, she is co-founder of @ease (, the Dutch version of the successful Australian Headspace initiative, youth mental health walk-in centers serving prevention and early detection. Finally she runs (and initiated) a specialised youth mental health care service bridging the gap between child & adolescence and adult services. She has more than 30 years clinical experience and is part of several international collaborative research networks including YOUTH-GEMs, IBBC, Genes2MH, ENIGMA, PSYSCAN, MINDDS.

Contact Therese here

Dr. Dorothee Horstkötter is an assistant professor in ethics and philosophy. She is head of the Department of Health Ethics and Society, part of the School of Mental Health and Neuroscience at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Her research covers ethical and conceptual questions at the interface of neuroscience/mental health/genomics and (disordered) human behavior.  She has published on ethical question regarding mental health prevention across the life-span, covering the prevention of antisocial behavior in young children and their families  up to the ethics of dementia risk-reduction in midlife. She has lead research on the ethics of good care for parents who use drugs and on the concept of ‘neuro-parenting’. Her work also addresses ethical issues in neurostimulation (DBS, TMs, tDCS, etc.) for psychiatry. Her work invokes philosophical reasoning as well as empirical  ethics and qualitative research methods, ensuring the inclusion of the views and perspective of all stakeholders. Dorothee Horstkötter is an experienced teacher in applied bioethics, research ethics and philosophy of medicine and a longstanding ethics-member of the Maastricht Medical Research Ethical Committee.

Prof. Dr. Ph.A.E.G. (Philippe) Delespaul is a Belgian mathematical psychologist/psychometrist, clinical psychologist, and CBT supervisor. He is professor of Innovations in Mental Health Care at the School for Mental Health and NeuroScience (Maastricht University) and the Mondriaan Mental Health Centre. He advises regional, national, and international stakeholders in mental health service innovation. He integrates human rights with user and family involvement. With Jim van Os, he initiated the Dutch New Mental Health movement and develops local ecosystems for mental health (GEM). His focus is on ambulatory care for people with severe mental health needs. He co-developed the FACT model of integrated care. He is a pioneer and expert in the experience sampling methodology (ESM) to assess daily adaptational strategies and improve resilience. He developed the PsyMate™ App to facilitate ESM dissemination. He wrote three books, more than 50 chapters in edited manuals, and co-authored more than 200 PubMed-listed articles.

Erika van Hell is a neuroscientist and project manager who has been involved in several larger international projects and consortia in the area of psychiatry and mental health. In Youth-GEMs, she coordinates the efforts to ensure that the valuable results of the project will be used and implemented by the people who would benefit the most (e.g. people with mental health problems, scientists, policy makers). In addition, she plays a part in WP7, working together with PIs Thérèse van Amelsvoort (Maastricht University) and Christel Middeldorp (Amsterdam UMC) to coordinate the clinical study in the Netherlands.

Cardiff University

Dr. Alex Richards is a Research Associate at Cardiff University, UK. He is particularly interested in the role of common variation in causing mental health disorders. He uses genomic structural equation modelling (SEM) to look for genetic signals that are either shared between, or differentiate, psychiatric disorders of interest. These signals are then examined for enrichment with functional categories and cell type-specific genes.

University of Barcelona

Noussair Lazrak is the Co-lead for WP6 at the University of Barcelona, where he focuses on developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) models for youth mental health trajectories. With his expertise in AI, Noussair collaborates with mental health professionals to ensure the models are relevant and accurate to real-world mental health care while considering ethical and privacy issues. His goal is to develop effective AI models that identify patterns and risk factors for mental health disorders, provide personalized interventions and treatments, and intervene early in the development of mental health disorders.

Contact Noussair here

Meet Karim Lekadir, the Director of the Artificial Intelligence in Medicine Lab at the University of Barcelona. His research revolves around the development of trustworthy AI for healthcare applications, encompassing vital aspects like robustness, generalizability, fairness, and explainability.

With his expertise, Karim actively coordinates four European projects in mental health, cardiology, and oncology. Furthermore, he holds the position of Principal Investigator for an ERC Consolidator Grant focusing on global health (AIMIX). Karim’s dedication and leadership make a significant impact in advancing the integration of AI in medicine for the betterment of healthcare.

Esmeralda Ruiz Pujadas is a postdoctoral researcher working on both WP5 and WP6 at the Universidad de Barcelona. Mental disorders are a leading cause of disease burden among youth, which is what motivated Esmeralda to join the Youth-Gems project. As a researcher, she is passionate about contributing to the field of mental health and hopes that the project will help bring more attention to this critical issue. Her work focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying mental illness and developing novel treatments and interventions to improve the lives of young people affected by these disorders.

Contact Esmeralda here


Maria Bulgheroni is the R&D Director for Ab.Acus and is responsible for coordinating the design and development activities across different WPs, including WP2, WP6, and WP7 for the Youth-GEMs project. She believes that taking care of mental health from a young age is crucial for creating a more inclusive society.

Contact Maria here

Laura Giani is an R&D software developer for Ab.Acus and is involved in designing and developing the Youth-GEMs digital solution that will be used in the WP7 clinical trial. She is passionate about helping the new generations become more aware of their mental health and needs and believes that digital tools are the best way to achieve this.

Contact Laura here

Margherita Lagamba is a biomedical researcher for Ab.Acus and is responsible for collecting user requirements and feedback through co-design for the development of the mobile app and digital platform for Youth-GEMs. After experiencing the hard reality of loved ones struggling with mental health, Margherita is passionate about improving youth mental health.

Contact Margherita here

University of Split

Tomisav Franić, MD, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Psychiatry and principal investigator for WP7 at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Split. As a subspecialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, Tomisav is passionate about finding new ways to help youngsters with mental health issues. He is also a proud father of a medical student and the owner of the North African gray parrot Grgo.

Contact Tomisav here

Mia Plenković is a research assistant for WP7 at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Split. She chose mental health as her field of study because it has always been a hot topic, and she desires to understand the struggles of people around her. Mia sees Youth-GEMs as an opportunity to contribute to the greater good by advancing knowledge and promoting better mental health care.

Contact Mia here

Dina Levačić is a research assistant and PhD student for WP7 at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Split. Mental health has always been an interest of hers, which she combines in her PhD, “Health and psychological aspects of channel swimmers.” Dina is a lifelong swimmer, the youngest female to do Oceans7, a crime show addict, and an owner of a 10kg furry cutie named Ogi.
Contact Dina here

University of Tartu

Jaanus Harro is a Professor and Chair of Neuropsychopharmacology at the University of Tartu, leading a team that contributes to WP7 of Youth-GEMs. Dr. Harro’s research on mental health spans a broad spectrum, from developing innovative animal models and novel treatments to longitudinally following representative human birth cohort samples, with a focus on general vulnerability and resilience.

Fundacio Centre De Regulacio Genomica (Crg)

Lauren Fromont is the co-lead of Work Package 3 at the Centre for Genomic Regulation. She is a scientific programme manager at the European Genomic-phenomic Archive (EGA), where she coordinates projects funded by the European Commission (H2020) and is involved in the development of data models in mental health. With a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Montreal, Lauren specialized in Cognitive Neuroscience. She is also actively engaged in data discovery activities at the EGA, seeking to advance our understanding of the biological underpinnings of mental health.

Clinic for Neurology and Psychiatry for Children and Youth Belgrade, Serbia

Dejan Stevanovic is a child psychiatrist and research fellow who serves as the site principal investigator for the Youth-Gems project. He believes that international scientific collaboration is vital for advancing youth mental health research. By working together, researchers can identify common challenges and unique needs in different communities, leading to more effective solutions. As a child psychiatrist, Dr. Stevanovic is dedicated to improving the lives of young people struggling with mental health issues.

Contact Dejan here

Jasna Jancic is a Neuropsychiatrist and Subspecialist in Clinical Pharmacology – Pharmacotherapy, as well as a Full Professor of neurology at the Medical Faculty of the University of Belgrade. She is the Senior Researcher for the Youth-Gems project at the Clinic for Neurology and Psychiatry for Children and Youth in Belgrade. In her opinion, the scientific significance of this international project lies in its dynamic view of developmental disorders, which unifies congenital and acquired patterns and provides insight into individual and general characteristics of neuropsychiatric functioning.

Contact Jasna here

Aleksa Milevic is a Research Assistant and Communication NAPISIS STA SI for the Youth-GEMs project at the Clinic for Neurology and Psychiatry for Children and Youth in Belgrade. As a MA Psychologist and RE&CBT Psychotherapist under supervision, Aleksa has always been interested in mental health, a field that is still deep and unexplored. From Aleksa’s perspective, the Youth-GEMs project presents a great opportunity to connect different knowledge and obtain practical guidelines about mental health.

Marija Nikolic is a research assistant for the Youth-GEMs project at the Clinic for Neurology and Psychiatry for Children and Youth in Belgrade. As an MD and PhD candidate, Marija understands the importance of addressing the rising mental health problems in youth, as they continue to struggle with their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. She believes that the Youth-GEMs project has the potential to make a significant contribution to the field of youth mental health by providing practical guidelines and connecting different areas of knowledge.

HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht

Simona Karbouniaris is a social scientist and the work package leader for WP-2 at the HU University of applied sciences Utrecht, the Netherlands. Along with Jim van Os and Lisette van der Poel, she plays a key role in this project. Simona has lived experience and is passionate about involving young people in the project and learning from their ideas about early prevention, adverse childhood events, self-awareness, resilience, and mental variation/neurodiversity.

Lisette van der Poel is a developmental psychologist and Co-lead of WP-2. She works at the HU University of applied sciences Utrecht in the Netherlands and is focused on giving children and young people a voice in matters and research concerning their own lives and well-being. Along with Simona Karbouniaris and Jim van Os, she plays a role in this project by involving young people in the project. Lisette is specialized in ecological pedagogy, participatory research and community building.

Mariël Kanne is an ethicist, specialized in ethical questions in the field of healthcare and social work. She works at the HU University of applied sciences Utrecht in the Netherlands as teacher/researcher. In WP-2, she tries to stimulate reflection on the moral values and dilemmas that are inherent in a project like YouthGEMs, where researchers and young people with mental health issues work together, with the aim to improve mental health and the mental health care system.

Fundación para la Investigación Biomédica del Hospital Gregorio Marañón

Covadonga Martínez Díaz-Caneja is the WP-7 lead at the Fundación para la Investigación Biomédica del Hospital Gregorio Marañón. She is fascinated by how the brain develops and evolves in a constant dialogue with the environment and wants to understand how to improve mental health and wellbeing in young people. Her expertise is essential to the success of the Youth-GEMs project.

Marta Ferrer-Quintero, PhD is in charge of helping coordinate WP7 at Institute of Psychiatry and Mental Health ( Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón)  and making sure everything goes according to plan. Marta is devoted to improving mental health in youth and believes research is the perfect tool to promote fair and universal mental healthcare to all. When not at work, she can be found reading sci-fi, climbing, doing yoga or at the park with her dog Toffee.

Euro Youth Mental Health

Nick Morgan is the Youth Engagement Lead and Director of Euro Youth Mental Health, playing a key role in Work Package 2 of the Youth GEMS project. He is leading the youth co-production and involvement in the project. As someone with lived experience of clinical depression and anxiety, Nick is deeply passionate about advocating for young people and empowering them to use their voices and experiences to effect positive change in the world of mental health. He is also the founder of Euro Youth Mental Health.

Ella Sheltawy is the Youth GEMS Engagement Facilitator for Workpackage 2 at Euro Youth Mental Health. She leads Science Cafes for young experts by experience and provides pastoral support while coordinating work for young people. As an experienced mental health advocate, she has witnessed the difficulty young people face accessing appropriate support and how their voices can be lost due to stigma and inequalities within systems. Ella is passionate about joining the Youth GEMS project to support young people in advancing new research that better understands them. In addition to her passion for mental health, she is studying art part-time and enjoys exploring the great outdoors and discovering new places.

Contact Ella here

The University of Edinburgh

Prof Ian Kelleher is the Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh (UK), University College Dublin (Ireland), and University of Oulu (Finland), and he leads WP7 alongside Dr. Covadonga Martínez Díaz-Caneja in the Youth GEMS project. As an Irishman living in Scotland and working on a project in Finland, he finds it fascinating to work across three different countries and learn from their similarities and differences.