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Six new Nordic innovation ambassadors

Thomas Lars Andresen, Filipe Pereira, Ulf Landegren, Morten Otto Alexander Sommer, Niels Behrendt and Risto Ilmoniemi are becoming innovation ambassadors, with each awarded a Novo Nordisk Foundation 3-year innovation grant of DKK 6 million.

In 2020, the Foundation established the Distinguished Innovator programme, which gives Nordic researchers the opportunity to explore the commercial potential of a research discovery while continuing their academic work.

The Foundation recently awarded grants through the programme to six researchers performing research within health or sustainability. Each researcher is receiving a 3-year grant of DKK 6 million for their project and the title of Novo Nordisk Foundation Distinguished Innovator. The title emphasises that the grant recipient will serve as innovation ambassador at their university, for example, by actively mentoring students or other teachers and staff and passing on learning and knowledge about innovation processes.

“The Novo Nordisk Foundation wants to encourage research that can lead to entrepreneurship and the creation of new solutions that can benefit patients and society. We are very much looking forward to following the six new projects,” says Mikkel Skovborg, Senior Vice President, Innovation, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

This year’s six grants go to professors Thomas Lars Andresen, Filipe Pereira, Ulf Landegren and Morten Otto Alexander Sommer, clinical professor Niels Behrendt and senior advisor Risto Ilmoniemi.

Six researchers and six research projects
Thomas Lars Andresen, Professor, Department of Health Technology, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, is receiving a grant to further develop a technology to deliver antibiotics very precisely where the body needs it. The technology aims to deliver high doses of antibiotics in bones or joints in connection with implants and thereby to suppress bacterial infections using one hundredth as much antibiotics as is required today. The goal is to contribute to ensuring that the healthcare system uses antibiotics more rationally and conservatively.

Filipe Pereira, Professor, Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy, Lund University, Sweden, is receiving a grant to develop precision immunotherapies to be able to cure not just cancer but many more diseases. The purpose of the grant is to develop a platform to screen barcoded factors in single cells to understand how various immune cells are generated. He then aims to harness these factors to drive cellular reprogramming and activate specific modules of the immune response.

Ulf Landegren, Professor, Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University, Sweden, is receiving a grant to further develop an ultrasensitive technology to detect proteins in biological samples. The idea is that the technology can identify proteins that can be associated with the early development of cancer so that treatment can be started early in the disease trajectory while the cancer can still be cured.

Niels Behrendt, Professor, Finsen Laboratory, Rigshospitalet and BRIC, University of Copenhagen, is receiving a grant to explore the potential of antibody–drug conjugates to treat people with rare types of cancer, including sarcomas and mesothelioma, that currently lack optimal treatments. The aim of the research is to bring drug candidates to the preclinical stage and develop them into drugs for human use.

Morten Otto Alexander Sommer, Professor, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, is receiving a grant to continue exploring the health potential of using improved probiotics to deliver health-promoting compounds to the gut with the goal of improving people’s health. The research aims to show that the next generation of probiotics can help people to not only add years to life but also add life to years.

Risto Ilmoniemi, Senior Advisor, Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland, is receiving a grant to commercialise a multi-locus transcranial magnetic stimulation technology that can relieve depression and chronic pain. The research aims to treat people with pain and depression with magnetic stimulation in a more personalised manner.

Professional dialogue and support
In addition to the grants, the recipients will receive the support they need to succeed in maturing their projects – including assistance from experts in legal services, entrepreneurship and innovation.

18 Distinguished Innovators
With the grants to the six new ambassadors, 18 researchers now have the title of Novo Nordisk Foundation Distinguished Innovator. The grants were first awarded in 2020. The 18 Distinguished Innovators are:

Zachary Gerhart-Hines, University of Copenhagen (2020)
Mette Rosenkilde, University of Copenhagen (2020)
Martin 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, Kongens Lyngby (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, Espoo (2023)

Further information

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