Philippe A. Melas

Philippe Melas

Senior research specialist

About me

As an independent researcher at the Center for Psychiatry Research (CPF), I'm fascinated by the complexity of substance use disorders and the underlying molecular and genetic mechanisms that contribute to addiction. My academic journey started with a Bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Democritus University in Greece, followed by a master's degree in Genetic Counseling at Uppsala University. During my PhD studies at Karolinska Institutet, I focused on using molecular and epigenetic methodologies to investigate psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

After completing my PhD, I joined Dr. Eric Kandel's lab at Columbia University as a postdoctoral fellow, where I gained valuable insights into brain reward systems and their dysregulation in substance use and addiction. Since returning to Karolinska Institutet as an independent researcher in 2020, my research has expanded to include the study of epitranscriptomics in substance use disorders. Through my research, I hope to shed light on the underlying molecular mechanisms of addiction and contribute to the development of new, personalized treatments.

Research description

My research is dedicated to understanding the molecular, epigenetic and epitranscriptomic components driving substance use disorders, commonly known as addiction. My recent work has focused primarily on alcohol use disorder (AUD), which impacts approximately 5% of the global population and is a significant burden on mental health systems worldwide. In Sweden alone, over 300,000 people are estimated to struggle with AUD.

More specifically, my latest research aims to investigate the roles of the RNA-demethylating enzyme FTO and m6A RNA methylation in the development of AUD. Recent genome-wide association studies have identified significant associations between the FTO gene and various alcohol use phenotypes, including AUD. However, there is a lack of studies examining the causal and functional roles of FTO and m6A RNA methylation in AUD development. By conducting a multidisciplinary investigation using animal models, primary neurons, and human postmortem brain tissue, we hope to advance our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms contributing to alcohol use disorders.

Our approach includes a combination of behavioral neuroscience, molecular biology, and bioinformatics methods. We have assembled a team of experts in each of these fields, and established international collaborations with other PIs to ensure that we have access to the latest technology and techniques. We aim to uncover new insights that could lead to the development of novel, targeted therapeutics for AUD with the potential to significantly improve clinical outcomes.

You can find an updated list of our team's publications on PubMed:

Teaching portfolio

I am committed to providing high-quality education and have been involved in teaching at various levels. My teaching portfolio includes:

  • Lecturer during the ‘Psychiatric Genetics’ week of the 'Research School for Clinicians in Psychiatry' for PhD students at the Karolinska Institutet and Region Stockholm.
  • Lecturer during the ‘Genetic Epidemiology’ week of the 'Applied Epidemiology 2 - Determinant of Health' Master’s program at the Dept. of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet.
  • Lecturer on ‘The Genetics of Addiction’ for resident doctors in psychiatry at Stockholm Center for Dependency Disorders, Stockholm County Council.
  • Lecturer on ‘The Genetics of Addiction’ as part of the PhD course in ‘Psychiatric Genetics’ within the PhD program in Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet.
  • Teacher assistant in the seminar ‘Clinical Genetics’ for medical students, Karolinska Institutet.

I also organize two courses at the Karolinska Institutet:


I hold a diverse educational background in genetics, molecular biology, and neuroscience. Specifically:

I completed my Bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Democritus University (Greece) in 2005.

In 2006, I was accepted into the Stockholm Research School in Molecular Life Sciences, funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF). This scholarship-based postgraduate program gave me the opportunity to further refine my research interests in genetics and molecular biology.

I then completed a Master's degree in Genetic Counseling at Uppsala University (Sweden) in 2008.

Following this, I pursued a PhD degree in Neurogenetics from Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) from 2008-2012, where I gained extensive knowledge in using molecular and epigenetic methodologies to study psychiatric disorders under the supervision of Drs. Catharina Lavebratt, Yvonne Forsell and Martin Schalling at the Dept. of Molecular Medicine and Surgery.

In 2013, I joined Dr. Eric Kandel's lab at the Dept. of Neuroscience at Columbia University (USA) as a postdoctoral fellow, where I focused on brain reward systems and their dysregulation in substance use and addiction until 2018.

Academic honours, awards and prizes

Throughout my career as a PI, I have been fortunate to receive research project support from a range of funding sources, including the Karolinska Institutet's Research Grants, the Åke Wibergs Foundation, the Royal Physiographic Society in Lund, the Alcohol Research Council of the Swedish Alcohol Retailing Monopoly, the Petrus and Augusta Hedlunds Foundation, the Magnus Bergvall Foundation, the Sigurd and Elsa Goljes Minne Foundation, the Lars Hiertas Minne Foundation, the Loo and Hans Ostermans Foundation, and the Längmanska Foundation. These grants have enabled me to pursue my research interests and have contributed to the advancement of the field of addiction research.

In addition to these grants, I have been honored to receive several prestigious awards and postdoctoral fellowships earlier in my academic career. These include the international postdoc grant from the Swedish Research Council, postdoctoral grants from the Fernströms Foundation, the Sweden-America Foundation, and the Royal Physiographic Society in Lund, as well as doctoral fellowships from Karolinska Institutet (KID) and the Bodossaki Foundation in Greece. I have also received research and conference travel awards from Karolinska Institutet and a conference travel award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA. These awards have provided me with opportunities to pursue my academic interests and have inspired me to continue to contribute to the field of molecular psychiatry.