It is with great sadness that the Commission learnt of the passing of Professor Emeritus Gertjan van Ommen, a leading figure in the 1+ Million Genomes initiative.

Image of Gertjan van Ommen

A strong advocate for sharing and using genetic information, Gertjan was one of the driving forces behind the Dutch participation in the European 1+ Million Genomes (1+MG) initiative. This project has the potential to revolutionise healthcare through improved disease prevention, personalised medical treatments, and more efficient use of scarce resources.

Despite his retirement and severe disease, Gertjan was highly involved in the 1+MG initiative in several ways. Until just a few weeks ago, he was still an active member of the 1+MG Coordination Group. He also remained committed to the 1+MG goals and the process to foster European collaboration in the implementation of genome-based health.

Gertjan contributed a huge amount to both the Dutch and International human genetics and genomics field. He was Professor of Human Genetics at Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), and the Head of Department of Human Genetics at LUMC from 1992-2012. Gertjan was driven by research into the biology of rare diseases, employing the most advanced technologies in research and therapy development. He inspired and mentored many international colleagues and young researchers to improve healthcare and make scientific discoveries work for patients.

Gertjan had a great interest in the ethical, legal and societal aspects of genome science, and in public and professional communication. He was Editor-in-chief of the European Journal of Human Genetics, President of the Human Genome Organisation (1998 to 2000) and of the Dutch (1993-2000) and European (2003-2004) Societies of Human Genetics. Beyond his personal scientific work, Gertjan was particularly involved in development of the national and international research infrastructure in the human genetics field, such as in the field of biobanking.

We have lost a great, amiable man who always kept up the good spirit in conversations through a catchy phrase. The European Commission was privileged to have been able to work with him. We will miss him dearly.

We would like to extend our sincerest sympathy to his wife, friends and colleagues.