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Novo Nordisk Foundation Awards Challenge Programme Grants of DKK 360 Million for Six Research Projects

Six major research projects aim to solve global technology or health challenges. The projects, which are each receiving DKK 60 million, include investigating the relationship between ageing and disease and the development of new multifunctional drugs.

Ageing is an important cause of the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. However, we are not yet able to explain why this is the case.

A new ambitious research project led by Rudi Westendorp of the Department of Public Health of the University of Copenhagen will shed new light on the relationship between ageing and disease using health data from Denmark’s unique official registries.

“The continuous increase in life expectancy and the numbers of years we spend with illness cause profound upheaval to all of us. The project will use modern computer-assisted analyses to better understand the ageing process and learn how to interfere in the underlying biomolecular processes. The purpose of our work is to prevent and delay infirmity in old age, to shape personalized therapies and to live healthier for longer,” says Rudi Westendorp.

The project is one of six major research projects that are each receiving a Challenge Programme grant of DKK 60 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The Challenge Programme aims to support and promote world-class research focusing on current global technology or health challenges.

The grants are awarded within the themes Big Data in Biomedicine and Design and Engineering of Biological Molecules and Systems.

The Foundation awards up to DKK 360 million annually under the Programme, with the themes varying from year to year.


The Foundation has awarded three of the new grants under the theme of Big Data in Biomedicine. In addition to the grant for Rudi Westendorp, the Foundation has awarded grants to Clive Sabel of Aarhus University and Søren Brunak of the University of Copenhagen.

Clive Sabel’s project will examine whether disease caused by environmental factors is the result of individual cases of high-risk exposure that can damage health or the result of slow accumulation throughout life. Søren Brunak’s project will use big data thinking to study all diseases concertedly, and especially in which order hundreds of diseases occur in a lifelong perspective. Read more about the projects below.


The Foundation has awarded three other grants under the theme of Design and Engineering of Biological Molecules and Systems.

Kurt Gothelf of Aarhus University has been awarded a grant under this theme for a project focusing on developing new multifunctional drugs. Morten Sommer of the Technical University of Denmark will develop new cell-based drugs to treat such diseases as cancer, high blood pressure and metabolic diseases.

Finally, the Foundation has awarded a grant to Dimitrios Stamou for a project focusing on controlling the behaviour and function of molecular systems and living cells with the aim of developing new treatments for such diseases as cancer.

All six projects are being carried out in collaboration with several Danish and international partners.

Read more about the Challenge Programme and watch films on ongoing research projects here.