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Dkk 120 Million for Research on the Role of the Gut Microbiome in Metabolic Diseases

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded two new grants under its Challenge Programme, which aims to enable research of the highest quality that focuses on finding answers to key global technological or health-related challenges.

The two recipients of the awards are: Fredrik Bäckhed, Professor, University of Gothenburg and University of Copenhagen; and Torben Hansen, Professor, University of Copenhagen.

Both researchers applied for research funding on the theme of the human microbiome. Their projects focus on how gut bacteria are related to disease. Each project grant is for DKK 60 million over 6 years.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Programme was launched in 2014, and this is the second time that the Foundation has awarded these grants.


Fredrik Bäckhed, Professor, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Wallenberg Laboratory for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Project title: Gut microbiome effects on cardiometabolic disease through metabolism-modifying metabolites (Gut-MMM)

Project description. Evidence indicates that the bacterial flora in the human gastrointestinal tract substantially influences metabolism and development of cardiometabolic diseases. Nevertheless, the extent to which these factors are linked and whether pharmaceuticals can be developed on this basis are currently unclear. The underlying hypothesis of the project is that microbially synthesized molecules do not simply play a role as the body’s energy metabolizers and building blocks; they also play an important role as signal molecules that interact with receptors in endocrine organs.

Torben Hansen, Professor, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Project title: MicrobLiver

Project description. The portal vein transports metabolites produced by the human gut microbiota directly to the liver, and these may play a role in developing several liver diseases. The project will have access to many patients and will comprehensively screen their microbiota, liver and blood. The goal is to build models that describe the gut microbiome–portal vein–liver axis and to identify biomarkers for predicting, preventing and treating metabolic liver diseases.


Grants of DKK 60 million awarded by the Foundation to research groups over 6 years provide the funds and the long-term perspective required for the groups to focus intensely on a specific theme.

To ensure that the best project proposals and research teams are considered, the Foundation offered the grants in open competition, and a specially created expert committee peer-reviewed the applicants. The research groups may be based anywhere in the world as long as the lead applicant and host institution are located in Denmark.

The Board of the Novo Nordisk Foundation decides the themes of the Challenge Programme, which vary annually. Two grants are awarded annually.


This year’s application round opened recently. The themes for 2016 are: (1) antibiotic resistance and/or alternative antibiotics and (2) oral drug delivery of biopharmaceuticals. Read more about the Challenge Programme on the Foundation’s website.

Further information:

Rasmus Larsen, Programme Manager, Novo Nordisk Foundation, [email protected]