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Four exceptional researchers recruited to Denmark

Four talented and promising young researchers are pulling up stakes and moving to Denmark having received a grant of DKK 25 million each from the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Researchers from four leading universities abroad are now moving to Denmark to continue their careers.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded each of these talented young researchers a grant of DKK 25 million to facilitate their move.

Based on the grants, the researchers will now establish their research laboratories at Aarhus University or the University of Copenhagen to pursue ambitious research programmes over 7 years.

The researchers work within various fields within biomedicine and biotechnology, and their arrival will strengthen and develop research in Denmark within these fields.

The four grant recipients

  • Felicity Davis, Senior Research Fellow at the Mater Research Institute of the University of Queensland, Australia is moving to the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University.
  • Samir Bhatt, Associate Professor, Imperial College London, United Kingdom is moving to the Department of Public Health at the University of Copenhagen.
  • Daniel M. Messerschmidt, Principal Investigator, Developmental Epigenetics and Disease Laboratory, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Agency for Science Technology and Research, Singapore is moving to the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.
  • Mads Gyrd-Hansen, Associate Professor, University of Oxford is moving to the LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center at the University of Copenhagen.

Felicity Davis will investigate and describe how organs form, function and fail in relation to disease. Samir Bhatt will collate information on the life history of more than 2 million people and will use mathematical models to determine what makes us ill. Daniel M. Messerschmidt will reveal new knowledge on epigenetics. Finally, Mads Gyrd-Hansen will focus on the signalling mechanisms in skin cells. Greater understanding of these mechanisms may lead to developing new drugs to treat inflammatory skin diseases.

”I am delighted to be able to bring the international research experience I have obtained in Oxford to the University of Copenhagen and thereby contribute to developing a strong and international research environment at the LEO Foundation Skin Immunology Research Center,” says Mads Gyrd-Hansen, who is returning to the University of Copenhagen, where he studied before moving to the University of Oxford in 2013.

The grants to these four researchers are part of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Young Investigator Awards programme, which enables outstanding young researchers outside Denmark to establish research laboratories in Denmark. The grant goes towards the cost of establishing a research group and the salary costs of employees.

“I would like to congratulate the four grant recipients. They have been selected from many very well-qualified applications, and we look forward to following their projects in the coming years. With the Novo Nordisk Foundation Young Investigator Awards, we strive to attract some of the world’s most talented and promising younger researchers to Denmark and thereby strengthen research in Denmark both now and in the future,” says Niels-Henrik von Holstein-Rathlou, Senior Vice President, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

New application round soon
Novo Nordisk Foundation Young Investigator Awards support independent early- to mid-career researchers who are ready to conduct more ambitious studies within biomedicine or biotechnology.

The grants are awarded in open competition in a two-stage application process. The next application round will open 9 September 2020. See the Novo Nordisk Foundation website for more information.

The projects of the four grant recipients:

Felicity Davis

Project title: Intracellular Calcium Signalling at the Nexus of Mammary Gland Form, Function and Failure

Project description: The ability to regenerate tissues and organs from adult stem cells efficiently and without error is a major goal of scientific research programmes around the world. As one of the most regenerative organs in the female body (and one that houses functional adult stem cells for over 50 years), the mammary gland (breast) is an ideal system to study the pathways underpinning how organs form, how they change and how they regenerate. We will use advanced scientific methods to observe and manipulate the behaviour of individual cells and to link these cell behaviours to overall tissue function. By creating seamless information from the microscopic to the macroscopic world, this project will allow us to comprehensively characterize how an organ forms, how it functions and how it may fail in disease.

Samir Bhatt

Project title: Re-envisioning the Life-course Perspective with Neural Architectures: a Multifaceted Population-wide Study of Disease Risk

Project description: Health is central to the well-being of a person. A curious fact when looking closely at the sequence of events in an individual’s life is that there is no such thing as an average person. The uniqueness of our lives makes it hard to assign an average risk for getting a disease at some point in time. In this programme, we will put the individuality of a person’s life front and centre, and given a history of events from birth, try to determine what is their risk for major diseases. To do this, we will collate in-depth information on the life history since birth of more than 2.2 million people and apply new methods from the cutting edge of artificial intelligence that can represent an individual’s life mathematically. Using our mathematical reality, we will aim to find out what makes us ill, how this varies from individual to individual, and how illness can be prevented. Our framework will re-envision how we calculate disease risk and challenge our current understanding of illness.

Daniel M. Messerschmidt

Project title: Mapping the Epigenetic “Inheritome” in Humans and in Mice

Project description: Development and well-being of humans is defined not only by the information encoded in our DNA but also by how this information is used. This is achieved by chemical modifications (epigenetic modifications), allowing or restricting access to the genetic information without altering the DNA code itself. Defects in this epigenome can be equally damaging to health and development as mutations to the DNA itself. For successful reproduction, the genome of the newly formed embryo must be stripped of most epigenetic information. Nevertheless, an unknown portion of the parental epigenome is transmitted with the genetic material at fertilization and fulfils important roles in the embryonic development and health of the progeny. Revealing this heritable epigenetic information, its functional relevance and the machineries involved in the transmission in humans and mice is the essence of this proposal.

Mads Gyrd-Hansen

Project title: Regulation of Met1-linked Ubiquitin and its Impact on Immune Function

Project description: Infections by microbes such as bacteria and viruses are a constant threat, and an effective, yet balanced, immune response is critical for human health. Genetic defects or pathogens that alter how the immune system is activated, or how it is tuned down again, can cause severe and potentially life-threatening conditions that affect millions worldwide such as inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and sepsis. It is therefore important to understand the mechanisms in cells that dictate how the immune system works and reacts to infection. Understanding these mechanisms will pave the way for the development of new drugs to treat inflammatory skin diseases and other immune-driven diseases.

Further information

Elisabeth Corcelle-Termeau, Senior Scientific Manager, +45 7242 2587, [email protected]

Christian Mostrup, Senior Programme Lead, +45 3067 4805, [email protected]