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Double boost for Danish health databases and data-based research with innovative new funding programme

A pilot initiative will provide funding to maintain high-quality health databases in Denmark and to support research that uses this data to advance understanding of cardiometabolic diseases (CMD). The aim is to ensure that valuable data remains both secure and accessible for future research, strengthening the CMD research environment in Denmark. 

Up to DKK 50 million will be distributed through the Novo Nordisk Foundation Sustain Programme, funding both databases and research projects that utilise them. Custodians of databases relevant to CMD research are invited to apply in Phase 1, and all eligible databases will then be shortlisted. In Phase 2, later in 2024, researchers based at a Danish institution can submit proposals utilising data from the shortlisted databases. The researchers selected for funding – and the custodians of data that will be used – will then receive their grants in 2025. 

The Foundation is currently exploring a number of new ways to support Danish health databases, with this pilot programme as one of them.  

“Huge efforts and resources are invested in gathering data during research projects, data that could be invaluable to other projects,” says Martin Ridderstråle, Senior Vice President and Head of Medical Science at the Novo Nordisk Foundation. 

“However, at the end of the funding period, it can be hard to secure support to maintain the resource, and hard for other researchers to find and access it. Sustain will offer a lifeline to databases that are high quality and in demand, helping advance fundamental CMD research in Denmark, and ultimately leading to breakthroughs that can improve the lives of people with CMD around the world.” 

FAIR principles
Due to the current lack of funding to maintain health databases in Denmark, there is little incentive to ensure that they adhere to the internationally accepted FAIR principles for data – findable, accessible, interoperable, and re-usable – which enable the data to be of use in future research efforts. 

For databases submitted to Sustain to be shortlisted, custodians must therefore agree to reference their database in public registries (making their resource findable), show that their database is hosted in a safe data environment with an established governance system (making it accessible), and provide a comprehensive description of the data (making it easy to re-use). Ideally, the database should also be interoperable, meaning that the data can be exchanged and used across different applications and systems. 

Successful research proposals will each receive up to DKK 4 million. For database custodians, if their resource will be utilised by one or more successful proposals, they will receive up to DKK 12 million, depending on the number of matched projects. Databases do not need to have a specific focus on CMD-specific indicators, but must contain data which may be used for research related to CMD. 

Database custodians must submit their applications by 29 August 2024, but are encouraged to apply early as the Foundation will review applications on a rolling basis. The Foundation will hold a webinar in May for database custodians interested in applying to the programme. The call for research proposals will open in November 2024. 

See full information on the call page here, including details about the webinar (when available).

Further information

Judith Vonberg
Communications Specialist
+45 4172 7925 [email protected]