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Renewed funding for rising stars of European diabetes research

There is good news for diabetes research in Europe. The Novo Nordisk Foundation and the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) will fund 20 more “rising star” scientists over the next five years as they develop knowledge that can help lead to new treatments, prevention measures and even a cure for this chronic disease. This marks a renewal of an existing programme, which has shown great success. 

The EFSD/Novo Nordisk Foundation Future Leaders Awards were first established in 2018 and have since contributed to strengthening the diabetes research landscape in Europe. As before, DKK 100 million will be available for the granting of four annual awards, each of up to DKK 5 million over five years. The 2024 call for applicants is open until 18 March 2024. 

“Developing new treatments and prevention measures that improve the lives of people with diabetes depends on a strong research field, and that’s only possible if the best young investigators are supported in their early career,” says Martin Ridderstråle, Senior Vice President and head of Medical Science at the Novo Nordisk Foundation.  

“Many hugely promising researchers leave academia or struggle through on short-term grants that make truly innovative research very difficult. The Future Leaders Awards offer a rare chance for young researchers to take on a more ambitious project and move the field forwards.” 

Top-quality research
The Future Leaders Awards are one of several joint initiatives between the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the EFSD, which works to advance diabetes research across Europe. 

A recent evaluation of the award by EFSD found that applications have in general been outstanding and that the award has gained an excellent reputation for supporting young researchers seeking to kickstart a career in diabetes research in Europe. Interviews with recipients show that these grants allow them to think long term (in comparison to the more common two- or three-year grants) and to undertake research that is higher risk, and therefore higher reward. 

Analysis of recipients’ research shows it to be extremely high quality, resulting in dozens of articles, many in prestigious publications including Diabetes Care and the European Journal of Epidemiology. Many recipients have initiated collaborations with other researchers, hospitals and public institutions, two have created new research tools or methods, and one has seen their intervention used in a clinical trial. 

‘The valuable resource of time’
Natalie Krahmer received a Future Leader award in 2020. Based in the Institute of Diabetes and Obesity at Hemholtz Munich, she and her team study cellular dysfunction in metabolic diseases with the aim of discovering potential drug targets. She speaks highly of the five-year model. 

“This award has not only provided crucial financial support, but has also afforded the valuable resource of time, allowing us to address a question that has previously not been addressed,” says Krahmer. “The five-year funding period provides the essential time needed to immerse into new research topics and integrate innovative techniques.” 

Michaela Tencerova was another of the 2020 awardees. She and her team in the Institute of Physiology at the Czech Academy of Sciences work on reducing fracture risk among people with metabolic bone diseases. She remarks on the many collaborative opportunities with experts in the field that developed as a result of the award, describing it as a “unique opportunity for early career researchers” looking to transition to the role of group leader and start their own research path. 

Broader criteria from 2024
Going forward, the application and selection process will remain the same and will again be administered by EFSD. To attract even more top-quality applicants, some changes will be made to increase the scheme’s visibility and broaden the application criteria.  

“There is intense competition among scientific domains for the most promising talents, underscoring the urgency to bolster European diabetes research. This can be best achieved by actively encouraging outstanding young researchers to advance their careers in the field and evolve into leaders,” says Coen Stehouwer, Chairmen of the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes. 

“We are delighted to extend our collaboration with the Novo Nordisk Foundation, which has demonstrated remarkable success in supporting basic and clinical scientists during a pivotal stage in their careers as they transition to a tenured academic position in European diabetes research.” 

The 20 recipients of Future Leaders Awards from 2019-2023 can be found here. 

Read more about the award and how to apply here. 

Further information

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