Health, Life and Biosciences

Life, health, disease and the working of drugs are based on the same underlying molecular mechanisms. Leiden chemists, biologists, physicists, pharmacologists, computer scientists and medical researchers therefore operate in a uniquely close co-operation. Our culture is both highly specialised and multidisciplinary and translational, integrating fundamental research and clinical practice. A key aim of our research is to make the path from the lab to the prevention and treatment of diseases as short as possible.

Major diseases

We tackle the major diseases of our times, including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis and neuro-vascular diseases. We study the human immune system, try to find biomarkers to pinpoint diseases or the working of drugs, and watch or even 'feel' the molecules at work in the cell.


With the Leiden Bioscience Park, the largest bioscience park in the Netherlands, on our doorstep, we are able to engage in close collaboration with innovative bioscience companies. We also co-operate in Medical Delta, the Leiden-Delft-Rotterdam consortium for health science and technology, and in the European Health Ties consortium.

This research theme focuses on four major strategic goals:

  • Understanding the fundamentals of life
    In our powerhouse of fundamental bioscience we develop and apply techniques for following molecular and cellular processes and for visualising the body. We synthesize new molecules by emulating nature, and apply our knowledge of chemistry to understand biological systems. We process enormous amounts of data, and have introduced innovative model systems such as the zebra fish.

  • Developing personalised medicine
    Personalised medicine is the right treatment for the right person at the right time. It is one of the great challenges of the coming decades. Currently, too many patients receive a standard treatment, which may be either too much or too little to be effective. We develop personalised therapies by studying genetic and other biological data and by identifying risk groups and specific drug targets.

  • Restoring full function to damaged organs
    The epidemic occurrence of atherosclerosis and diabetes has left a growing number of people with severe organ damage. Such disabilities place an increasing burden on health care systems. Regenerative medicine, that includes both transplantation medicine and stem cell therapy, aims to restore damaged tissues and organs by using the natural properties of cells.

  • Developing a new generation of drugs
    The 20th century has seen a tremendous growth in the number of effective drugs. However, this process has come to a standstill. There is now a need for more effective pharmacological treatments for a broad range of distressing and often chronic diseases. We aim to develop a new generation of effective drugs for the next generation of mankind. The crux of our approach lies in the close co-operation between fundamental, translational and clinical researchers as well as small biotech companies.

Launched as a core aspect of  Leiden University's research strategy, Health, Life and Biosciences is an institution-wide profile theme.

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Description of the Health, Life and Biosciences research profile (in Dutch)

Last Modified: 09-05-2012