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Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Biology, DanStem

What attracts me is the enormous challenge involved in developing a stem cell centre that has a real potential to compete with the rest of the world.




Pluripotent stem cells can develop into almost any type of cells in the human body, such as brain, blood and skin cells. Because many serious diseases result from conditions in which cells are absent or malfunctioning, considerable therapeutic potential can be harvested if researchers can understand and mimic the development from stem cells into specialized cells.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Biology, DanStem conducts basic and translational research within developmental, stem cell and molecular biology. Research topics include how to induce stem cells to differentiate into certain types of cells and the specific role of cancer stem cells in developing different types of cancer. The ambition is to generate knowledge that will form the basis for developing more targeted and efficient therapies for diabetes and cancer.

The Center comprises eleven internationally renowned research groups, including seven recruited from Sweden, Switzerland, Scotland, England and the United States. All groups have well-established global networks and participate actively in numerous international research projects.


Henrik Semb, Professor and Executive Director of the Center, says:

- We aim to make important discoveries in basic and translational stem cell research. The Center is also active in educating the next generation of stem cell scientists working both in basic and clinical research, whom we hope will challenge the current scientific dogmas and become the future leaders within the field.

Until 2017, DanStem (Danish Stem Cell Center) comprised two sections: the Novo Nordisk Foundation Section for Basic Stem Cell Biology (BasicStem) supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Section for Translational Stem Cell Research and Therapy, which was supported by Innovation Fund Denmark. In August 2017, the two sections merged into one centre called the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Biology, DanStem.

The Foundation established the Section for Basic Stem Cell Biology in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen. In 2010, the Foundation awarded a 10-year grant of DKK 350 million (€47 million) to establish and operate the Section. Of this grant, DKK 30 million were reserved for national research collaboration. In 2015, the Novo Nordisk Foundation awarded an additional grant of DKK 235 million (€31.4 million) to strengthen and expand the Section’s activites, and in 2017 it awarded a grant of DKK 100 million for establishing a new research programme, the Programme for Translational Hematology focusing on blood cancer. It was in connection with that grant that the two sections merged.

In total, the Center has received DKK 685 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation. It opened in 2011 and today 145 persons work there.


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