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DKK 700 million to further strengthen Denmark’s leading position in protein research

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a 5-year grant of DKK 700 million to the University of Copenhagen. The purpose of the grant is to enable the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research to pursue a new ambitious scientific vision and propel the Center to become a global leader in protein research.

Proteins are essential building blocks of life and tirelessly control essentially all functions of our bodies. Consequently, understanding the fundamental properties of proteins, including how proteins assemble into complex, dynamic networks, is indispensable for understanding human health. Indeed, almost all drugs are designed to target proteins, and an increasing number of drugs are themselves proteins.

Since its inauguration at the University of Copenhagen in 2009, the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research has established itself as an international hotspot for protein research. The Center has produced a great number of scientific breakthroughs and served as an entry point for new protein technologies in Denmark.

“We are impressed with the results achieved by the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research. The Center is now internationally recognized for the synergy between its research programmes and for spearheading protein research technology. With the new grant, we want to enable the Center to build on its achievements and expand with new research programmes and groups and to invest in new state-of-the-art technologies to strengthen protein research in Denmark,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The new grant will enable the Center to lead the worldwide effort in uncovering how proteins govern essential physiological processes in the body and transform new knowledge into collaborations with clinical environments to benefit patients and society.

In addition, the grant will pave the way for the Center to expand collaborations with hospitals to improve diagnostics, enhance the efficacy of current treatments and develop new drugs. The grant will also contribute to educating and training future leaders in protein-driven biomedicine at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

A focal point of the Center’s research is to characterize all proteins of the human body – the proteome – with unprecedented depth and accuracy. This has been achieved by combining innovative technology, in many cases developed by the Center’s researchers, with a strong biological focus and major investments in bioinformatics, health record mining and big data analytics. In particular, the researchers have spearheaded this technological revolution by developing new methods in advanced mass spectrometry to decipher protein-signalling networks and protein modifications, many of which could not be easily studied before. Using this approach, the Center has performed the most extensive proteome sequencing of an individual human cell to date, leading to the identification of more than 14,000 different proteins.

“Discoveries made by our scientists have been instrumental in realizing that, although proteins can indeed be regarded as true ‘workhorses’ of our bodies, it is the intricate combination of the chemical modifications and interactions with each other that actually governs physiological functions. The new grant will enable us to lead the worldwide effort in investigating how protein networks communicate and how to harness this knowledge for improved disease management,” says the Center’s Executive Director, Professor Jiri Lukas.

Since 2007, the Foundation has supported the Center with grants totalling DKK 780 million. The Foundation is awarding the new 5-year grant of DKK 700 million after a comprehensive evaluation of the Center’s performance and future plans by an independent committee of leading international scientists.

Read more in the announcement from the University of Copenhagen here.

Further information

Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, phone: +45 3067 4805, [email protected]