About BIRD


The mission of the Belgian Inflammatory Bowel Disease Research and Development Group (BIRD) is:

  • To stimulate research in the field of Inflammatory Bowel disease (IBD) by conducting non-commercial multicenter epidemiological and clinical studies on treatment strategies an quality of care.  We want to be at the forefront of improving treatment strategies with existing therapies. We want to advance the current understanding on the pathogenesis of the disease.
  • To improve the clinical and scientific knowledge about the disease between gastroenterologists, surgeons, scientists, IBD nurses, IBD study coordinators and other IBD-related paramedics (i.e. dieticians, psychologists). We want to provide top class education in different formats.
  • To stimulate high quality IBD care in daily practice by providing support and education to those working in the IBD field.
  • To support young clinicians and/or researchers through scientific grants in original research projects in Belgium.
  • To represent the whole IBD community (physicians, nurses, study coordinators, paramedics, scientists, patients, pharma) in the interaction with the government to ensure an optimal and balanced structure for IBD care.


The IBD Research Group, as the BIRD group was originally called, was founded On March 7th, 1998 by Professor Paul Rutgeerts. The primary aim of the group was to stimulate research in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Other aims put forward were to increase the knowledge about the epidemiology and course of IBD, to develop protocols for clinical studies which could be performed in collaboration in Belgium, to organize teaching events on the disease and all its aspects and to collaborate with IBD patient organisations.

The BIRD general assembly is held 3 times per year and while the location has changed since the first meeting in Woluwe, it has remained in a centrally located region of Belgium.  Once per year, this general assembly coincides with the Belgian Week of Gastroenterology ( and therefore takes place in Antwerp.

The first Board of the IBD Research group consisted of Prof. Dr. André Van Gossum (first President), Prof. Dr. Martine De Vos, Prof. Dr. Geert D’Haens, Dr. Pierre Hoang, Prof. Dr. Jacques Belaiche, Dr. Marc Van Outryve and Prof. Dr. Daniel Urbain. Over the years, the group has proven to be very successful in all its predefined aims: protocols regarding patient management were shared and harmonized throughout Belgium, and a number of pivotal investigator-initiated studies were formed and executed with success. Some of these studies are now considered as pivotal trials in the field of Gastroenterology: the placebo-controlled trial with budesonide for lymphocytic colitis led by Dr. Filip Baert1, the “step-up top-down” study led by Prof. Dr. Geert D’Haens2, the use of calprotectin as biomarker in the follow up of infliximab lead by Prof. Dr. Martine De Vos3. The group was also actively involved in the Tailorix study, the first prospective study investigating if a trough level based management of infliximab is superior than a management based on clinical symptoms4.

What started in 1998 with really a handful of enthusiastic individuals has led now to a group of >210 active members with representation of all Belgian universities and multiple community hospitals in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia. With a growing number of members, the group also changed name in 2009 from IBD Research Group to BIRD: the Belgian IBD Research and Development group.

By the end of 2016, BIRD was reorganized, now consisting of a governing board, an educational committee, a scientific committee and of course, its members. The EduCom organizes case and topic discussions, guidelines and collaboration with patient organisations, while SciCom evaluates study proposals and coordinates ongoing trials.

In 2020, a third committee was integrated in the structure of BIRD: BINAstoria (Belgian IBD nurses and study coordinators association). BINAstoria itself began in 2017 as a merger of two subgroups: BINA (Belgian IBD Nurse Association) and Astoria (Association of Study coordinators for IBD Research center optimization). As IBD patient care is a team effort, IBD nurses, study coordinators and other paramedical professionals are vital members of the BIRD organization. BINAstoria itself has >140 members, which brings the total number of BIRD members to over 350! 

For several years now, the BIRD group also has a formal program during the Belgian Week of Gastroenterology, covering two half days with sessions dedicated to both physical science and the clinical aspects related to IBD care. These sessions offer many original free papers presented by upcoming IBD specialists in Belgium and therefore represent an excellent forum for young trainees to interact and be stimulated in this exciting field of research!

1 Baert, Filip et al. “Budesonide in collagenous colitis: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial with histologic follow-up.” Gastroenterology vol. 122,1 (2002): 20-5.

2 Hoekman, Daniël R et al. “Long-term Outcome of Early Combined Immunosuppression Versus Conventional Management in Newly Diagnosed Crohn's Disease.” Journal of Crohn's & Colitis vol. 12,5 (2018): 517-524.

3 De Vos, Martine et al. “Consecutive fecal calprotectin measurements to predict relapse in patients with ulcerative colitis receiving infliximab maintenance therapy.” Inflammatory Bowel Diseases vol. 19,10 (2013): 2111-7.

4 D'Haens, Geert et al. “Increasing Infliximab Dose Based on Symptoms, Biomarkers, and Serum Drug Concentrations Does Not Increase Clinical, Endoscopic, and Corticosteroid-Free Remission in Patients With Active Luminal Crohn's Disease.” Gastroenterology vol. 154,5 (2018): 1343-1351.


From 2018-2022, BIRD organized a twice-yearly national symposium. The spring symposium focused on recent advances in the field of IBD while the autumn symposium focused on more on the practical aspects of daily IBD care with state of the art lectures from international KOLs and interactive workshops. These symposia were open to gastroenterologists, trainees in gastroenterology, IBD nurses and study coordinators.

As of 2022, BIRD launched a new concept with a 2-day BIRD congress in November. The BIRD 2022 First Annual Congress took place on 18 and 19 November at Kursaal Oostende, and provided insights into the most important updates from the past year, including the best of the major international congresses: ECCO, DDW and UEGW. The program also addressed the major evolutions in IBD, provided participants with an up-to-date vision of the state of the art, and workshops were held to focus on the more practical side of IBD care. The first edition of the BIRD Congress welcomed over 250 participants and due to its success, BIRD will continue to host a 2-day congress each year during the 3rd weekend of November.

In 2016 BIRD became a legal entity that enables the conduct and sponsoring of non-commercial clinical trials. The first BIRD-sponsored clinical trial was initiated in 2020 (RESCUE, PI Dr. Peter Bossuyt), which was a milestone in the history of BIRD. Since then more trials have started, including RESCUE-OLE (PI Dr. Lieven Pouillon) and CARUC-ASA (PI Prof. Dr. Catherine Reenears) with even more in preparation.

BIRD’s representation in ECCO, the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation, goes back to the origin of the European Society where Prof. Dr. Geert D’Haens was one of the founders of ECCO. In fact, BIRD members have played or currently hold important functions within ECCO: ClinCom - Dr. Filip Baert, Prof. Dr. Marc Ferrante, Dr. Peter Bossuyt; SciCom - Prof. Dr. Edouard Louis (former chair), Prof. Dr. Marc Ferrante (current); Y-ECCO - Prof. Dr. Marc Ferrante, Prof. Dr. Pieter Hindryckx, Prof. Dr. Bram Verstockt (current); D-ECCO – Julie Vanderstappen (current); N-ECCO - Goedele Dewitte (current), Evva De Jonckere (current); and Prof. Dr. Séverine Vermeire has served as President of ECCO.  Two members of BIRD represent ECCO as National Representatives: former - Prof. Dr. Denis Franchimont, Dr. Filip Baert, Dr. Peter Bossuyt and Prof. Dr. Pieter Dewint; and today - Dr. Sophie Vieujean and Prof. Dr. Triana Lobaton/Dr. Lieven Pouillon.

Numerous ECCO guidelines have BIRD members amongst their list of authors. This international representation allows for collaborations beyond our national borders as BIRD is currently participating in clinical trials with GETAID and Dutch IBD centers, with future collaborative efforts still to come.

With the expansion of the group, BIRD also further professionalizes. In 2016, Saskia Appelmans was appointed as COO, supporting the daily operation of the BIRD. In 2021, Ingrid Arijs joined BIRD as Senior Project Manager, and was appointed COO after Saskia’s departure. Over the last few years the office team has further expanded with the addition of Laura Vansteenkiste as CRA and Junior Clinical Project Manager, Jolien De Rechter as Clinical Research Coordinator, and Jenifer King as Office Manager.

In addition to our growing team, BIRD is proud to invest in training young researchers to become experts in multicentric clinical trials.  The team has welcomed several masters students from KU Leuven to conduct their thesis with BIRD: Lennart Vanglabeke (past), and currently Axelle Raeves and Jolien Dierickx.

As you will have noticed, the future of IBD in Belgium is secured and most gratitude goes to the original “godfathers” who – back in 1998 already - believed that collaboration paves the way to success!

The BIRD board

Dr Peter Bossuyt, President
Dr Filip Baert, Past-president
Prof Dr Marc Ferrante, Secretary
Dr Anneline Cremer, Treasurer
Prof Dr Catherine Reenaers, SciCom chair
Prof Dr Joao Sabino, EduCom chair
Mrs Noortje Straetemans, Binastoria chair

All healthcare professionals involved in the care for patients with IBD (physicians, IBD nurses, dietitians, psychologists, scientists, study coordinators) can become a member of BIRD. The registration is free of charge and unlimited in duration.