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Novo Nordisk Foundation doubled payouts in 2019

The Novo Nordisk Foundation significantly increased its contribution to improving people’s lives and the sustainability of society in 2019. The areas the Foundation focused on included emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. The Foundation also expanded its support for several new areas including sustainability and humanitarian causes.

In 2019, the Novo Nordisk Foundation paid out DKK 3.6 billion (€485 million) for projects within a broad range of areas, including medical science, the natural and technical sciences, biotechnology, education, innovation and humanitarian causes. This amount is more than double the DKK 1.7 billion the Foundation paid out in 2018.

“In 2019, we supported more projects than ever before. This reflects that we have significantly increased funding for the health sciences and that we have expanded our grants to cover several new areas including the natural sciences and sustainability. The ambition of our support is to contribute to improving the lives of people and the sustainability of society,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The Foundation received 3378 applications and awarded 623 grants – the highest numbers ever in a single calendar year.

“We received many qualified applications and would like to thank our grant recipients and close partners for excellent collaboration during the year,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Antimicrobial resistance and transmission of infections
The Foundation’s primary grant area is the health sciences. In 2019, the Foundation focused on emerging infectious diseases, among others, and awarded DKK 120 million for two very important projects under its Challenge Programme. One is seeking answers to why some bacterial infections persist while others do not, and the other project is investigating why some influenza viruses are transmitted from pigs to humans to increase knowledge of emerging zoonotic diseases and other topics.

Antimicrobial resistance is a special focus area for the Foundation. Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria are a ticking bomb under the foundation of modern medicine and are expected to cause 10 million deaths annually by 2050. The Foundation has allocated DKK 1 billion in 2018 to the REPAIR Impact Fund, which aims to invest in companies in the early stages of developing medicines to combat antimicrobial resistance. In 2019, REPAIR invested in several companies trying to develop new antibiotics.

Towards a sustainable society
One significant Foundation initiative in 2019 was a grant of DKK 203 million for a major plant research project that will create new knowledge on how to protect crops against drought, insects and other stress factors and thereby mitigate climate change. Four universities in Denmark and the United States are carrying out the project.

Companies driving the growth
The Foundation’s payouts are enabled by the commercial activities of the Novo Group (Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S) and the more than 100 other companies the Foundation owns in full or in part through Novo Holdings A/S. When the companies achieve good results, the Foundation can progressively award more grants to benefit people and society.

“The main reason the Foundation has funds for future grants is Novo Nordisk and Novozymes and good investment results from the Foundation’s investment company, Novo Holdings A/S,” says Niels Peder Nielsen, Deputy CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

“We expect that our grants and payouts will increase in 2020 relative to 2019. The payouts will be affected by previously awarded grants and new funding decisions in 2020, including our recently announced initiatives related to COVID-19. Our long-term investment horizon enables a long-term payout policy, but the economic and health effects of COVID-19 will naturally influence us. The Foundation’s overall purpose and vision and the activities we are able to support have clearly become even more important in the current situation,” says Niels Peder Nielsen.

Foundation grants and payouts, 2015–2019

The Novo Nordisk Foundation categorizes its funding into grants and payouts. In 2019, the Foundation awarded total grants of nearly DKK 4.9 billion for new projects. The amounts the Foundation awards and pays out in a given year are not the same because the grants are often paid out over several years (equivalent to the duration of each project receiving a grant). The DKK 3.6 billion paid out in 2019 therefore covers payouts for both existing grants from previous years and new grants awarded in 2019. The graph above shows the amounts awarded and paid out over the past 10 years.

Read the Novo Nordisk Foundation 2019 grant report here.

Read more about the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s funding areas here.

Selected grants in 2019

More talented data specialists
The Foundation has allocated DKK 410 million to a new Data Science Initiative that will help to alleviate the shortage of specialists within data science in Denmark. Data science is an important driver of all research, from developing more sustainable agriculture and new climate solutions to disseminating new pioneering health technologies.

Helping Syrian refugees in Jordan
The Foundation has partnered with the Danish Refugee Council, UNICEF and the World Diabetes Foundation on three long-term projects targeting Syrian refugees in Jordan. The projects will create better opportunities and future prospects for Syrian refugees in Jordan, many of whom have inadequate access to education and treatment of disease. The Foundation has awarded DKK 165 million for the three projects.

High-technology platform strengthens the basis for new discoveries
New important discoveries and strengthening research in the health sciences: these are the Foundation’s goals in supporting a new highly specialized mass spectrometry technology facility at the University of Copenhagen. The platform is available to all researchers from both academia and industry and gives priority to researchers from the Nordic countries. The Foundation has awarded up to DKK 100 million for the platform.

Tailoring treatment to individual patients
When the Danish National Genome Center implements genetic analysis in the coming years, people can look forward to improved diagnosis and more tailored treatment – also called personalized medicine. More than 80% of Denmark’s medical specialties currently use genetic analysis for diagnosis, and the Danish National Genome Center will ensure that comprehensive genetic analysis of uniform high quality can be performed wherever the patient is located in Denmark. In 2018, the Board of Directors of the Foundation approved a framework grant of DKK 1 billion to the Center in anticipation of a resilient project plan for implementing the Center throughout Denmark. After the project plan was completed in 2019, the Foundation approved the final grant to the Danish National Genome Center under the Ministry of Health to fund the Center’s infrastructure and the first 60,000 genetic analyses.

Researchers with wild ideas
The Foundation wants to support wild and creative research ideas in the natural and technical sciences through its NERD (New Exploratory Research and Discovery) research programme. The new programme targets ambitious, dedicated researchers who give priority to pursuing their own creative ideas in the laboratory and want to maintain their focus on a topic long term to generate original knowledge. Researchers can apply to the Foundation for a grant of up to DKK 14 million over 7 years. The Foundation has allocated nearly DKK 300 million to NERD.

Improving the quality of life for people with arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis in the spine and psoriatic arthritis are lifelong diseases. A new research project will help to improve the early response to patients and to prepare them to manage their life with arthritis. The project will achieve this by giving nurses and other healthcare professionals new competencies and tools to deal with such areas as disturbed sleep or how people can continue sports activities so they fit their state of illness. The Foundation awarded DKK 7.5 million for the project. The Foundation awarded a total of DKK 21.3 million for nursing research in 2019.

Young researchers in nature
The Creepy Crawlies project of the Danish Rangers’ Association enables children in childcare centres and primary schools to explore the numerous small animals in their immediate vicinity through a range of activities. The goals are to inspire both children and their parents to explore nature so that they want to investigate and examine the world around them and to motivate and equip early-childhood educators and teachers to initiate Creepy Crawlies activities on their own. The Foundation awarded DKK 17 million for the project. In 2019, the Foundation awarded a total of DKK 159 million in open competition for projects within science education and outreach. The Foundation received 315 applications and awarded grants for 57 projects.

Start-up assistance for new companies
The BioInnovation Institute awarded DKK 86.7 million to 34 entrepreneurs in 2019. The Foundation established the BioInnovation Institute at the end of 2017 with the purpose of supporting innovative entrepreneurs and talented researchers in further developing research projects and new solutions that benefit society.

Further information

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