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Seven new Distinguished Innovators appointed – including three with sustainability-focused projects

For the first time, the Distinguished Innovator programme has increased its focus from health to also include a focus on sustainability – and researchers working on the development of natural biopesticides, the discovery of microbes to mitigate climate challenges on crops, and catalysts for carbon dioxide and methane conversion, have been selected to receive grants.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Distinguished Innovator programme provides established Nordic entrepreneurial researchers with the long-term support they need to mature discoveries with commercial potential, while at the same time allowing them to continue their academic work.

This round, Samir EL Andaloussi, Samuel Emil Schmidt, Sotirios Kampranis, Guillermo Montoya, Ling Ding, Karin Lykke-Hartmann and Søren Kegnæs have been awarded a 3-year grant of up to DKK 6 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

In addition to stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, the programme aims to drive cultural change within academia, as recipients serve as an innovation ambassador at their university.

The call for applications for the next round of the Distinguished Innovators programme is now open. Learn more here.

“This spring, we received many high-quality applications, and I am thrilled that we have selected seven new Distinguished Innovators,” says Mikkel Skovborg, Senior Vice President for Innovation at the Novo Nordisk Foundation. “Since we expanded the grant to also cover sustainability and quantum technologies, I am pleased that three of the new Distinguished Innovators are from the sustainability area. In the future we look forward to receiving applications within the field of quantum technologies as well.”

Seven new Distinguished Innovators and their projects
Samir EL Andaloussi, Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, is receiving a grant of DKK 6 million to develop novel solutions to increase the therapeutic efficacy of antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) based medicines in heart disease. The project will utilise different interdisciplinary approaches, including mapping efficacy on a single cell level in vivo using RNA sequencing, to screen the efficacy of various next generation heart delivery solutions. The aim is to design a minimally invasive, yet highly specific, delivery solution for ASO delivery to the heart.

Samuel Emil Schmidt, Associate Professor, Department of Health Science and technology, Aalborg University, is receiving a grant of DKK 5,997,561 to develop a small intelligent patch which can measure the heart’s function from the outside of the body. Remote health monitoring of people with heart failure has the potential to ensure timely adjustment of medicine to avoid hospitalisation. Currently only sensors placed inside the blood vessels of the lung have been shown effective for remote monitoring and this method requires surgery, is costly and poses a risk for the patient. This research aims to develop an intelligent patch which will be low-cost, simple to use and will not pose a risk to the patient.

Sotirios Kampranis, Professor, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen, is receiving a grant of DKK 5,996,992 to revolutionise pest control by developing natural biopesticides using fermentation. With pioneering technology, the research aims to provide a sustainable and scalable source of safe and biodegradable pest control agents suitable for organic agriculture.

Guillermo Montoya, Professor and Research Director, Novo Nordisk Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen, is receiving a grant of DKK 6 million to study CRISPR-associated transposase (CAST) systems. This new gene editing technology can insert large segments of DNA addressing one of the main drawbacks of current gene editing approaches. This technology can be used in therapeutic applications and biotechnological processes by modifying microorganisms, plants, or animals. However, current CAST technology has various limitations and does not allow genome manipulations that address complex diseases. The aim of this research is to redesign and improve CASTs to allow complex genome manipulation in cells for biomedical and biotechnological applications.

Ling Ding, Associate Professor, Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Technical University of Denmark, is receiving a grant of DKK 5,938,304 to discover beneficial microbes that can be used to help mitigate climate change challenges on crops. Through collaboration between Denmark and Vietnam – where rice agriculture is under threat – the research aims to understand how Streptomyces spp. help plants cope with abiotic stress (such as drought and salinity) and utilise it for advancing sustainable agricultural production.

Karin Lykke-Hartmann, Professor, Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, is receiving a grant of DKK 6 million to address two short-comings currently reducing pregnancy rates in the fertility treatment of infertile women. A protocol to mature eggs in the petri-dish will be developed, utilising ovarian tissue donated from infertile women with the aim of artificially activating eggs to improve fertilisation rates.

Søren Kegnæs, Professor, Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark, is receiving a grant of DKK 5,941,493 to develop novel and stable heterogeneous catalysts for converting CO2 and methane from biogas into valuable syngas. Syngas is critical in the production of fuels and chemicals today and for the future energy and chemical portfolio. The project aims to achieve efficient and economic CO2 utilisation, which could significantly impact the environment and society.

Call for applications
The call for applications for the next round of the Distinguished Innovator grants opened on August 1st. The deadline for submissions is September 14th. Click here to apply.

25 Distinguished Innovators
With the grants to the seven new ambassadors, a total of 25 researchers now have the title of Novo Nordisk Foundation Distinguished Innovator. The grants were first awarded in 2020. The 25 Distinguished Innovators are:

Zachary Gerhart-Hines, University of Copenhagen (2020)
Mette Rosenkilde, University of Copenhagen (2020)
Martin Roelsgaard Jakobsen, Aarhus University (2020)
Claus Elsborg Olesen, Aarhus University (2020)
Andreas Kjær, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen (2020)
Trond Ulven, University of Copenhagen (2021)
Kristian Strømgaard, University of Copenhagen (2021)
Irina Borodina, Technical University of Denmark, (2021)
Anja Boisen, Technical University of Denmark (2021)
Jan Terje Andersen, Oslo University Hospital (2022)
Olli Pentikäinen, Turku University (2022)
Ali Salanti, University of Copenhagen (2022)
Thomas Lars Andresen, Technical University of Denmark (2023)
Felipe Pereira, Lund University (2023)
Ulf Landegren, Uppsala University (2023)
Morten Otto Alexander Sommer, Technical University of Denmark (2023)
Niels Behrendt, University of Copenhagen and Rigshospitalet (2023)
Risto Ilmoniemi, Aalto University, (2023)
Samir EL Andaloussi, Karolinska Institute (2023)
Samuel Emil Schmidt, Aalborg University (2023)
Sotirios Kampranis, University of Copenhagen (2023)
Guillermo Montoya, University of Copenhagen (2023)
Ling Ding, Technical University of Denmark (2023)
Karin Lykke-Hartmann, Aarhus University (2023)
Søren Kegnæs, Technical University of Denmark (2023)

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation
Established in Denmark in 1924, the Novo Nordisk Foundation is an enterprise foundation with philanthropic objectives. The vision of the Foundation is to improve people’s health and the sustainability of society and the planet. The Foundation’s mission is to progress research and innovation in the prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic and infectious diseases as well as to advance knowledge and solutions to support a green transformation of society.

Further information
Marie-Louise Jersin, Senior Communications Partner, +45 3049 4957, [email protected]