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Two Nordic Foundations Support a Network in a Nobel Prize–winning Technology

A new Danish-Swedish research alliance wants to advance understanding of how biological molecules look and behave. With support from the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, scientists at four universities in Denmark and Sweden will join forces to create a Nordic network in cryo-electron microscopy, whose developers were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The CryoNet network will bring together experts in cryo-electron microscopy at universities in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Umeå. A Danish-Swedish partnership between the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation will fund the network. Each foundation has awarded a grant of €1 million over 4 years for CryoNet.

Both foundations have previously awarded grants to individual cryo-electron microscopy platforms in Denmark and Sweden. In supporting CryoNet, the foundations now seek to integrate the platforms to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing across national borders. One main goal is to help establish state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscopy as a strong pillar of Nordic life science research.

Cryo-electron microscopy is a powerful method that can visualize the three-dimensional structure of proteins in their natural state in great detail. Proteins are made of amino acids joined together like beads on a necklace. The order and properties of the amino acids make each protein fold into a unique three-dimensional structure, enabling a protein to interact with other molecules with compatible structures and thereby perform its functions.

By determining the structures of proteins, scientists can much better understand central questions of biology related to health and disease and apply this information to design new drugs.

Within CryoNet, the participating universities will exchange researchers to rapidly absorb and share new methods and knowledge. CryoNet will also offer training in cryo-electron microscopy and arrange open courses and seminars to benefit the entire research community in the Nordic region and beyond.

Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, says: “We have formed a promising partnership with the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in launching CryoNet. Cryo-electron microscopy has opened up new opportunities for understanding the architecture and functions of proteins. Our aim in supporting the establishment of this new Danish-Swedish network is to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing, thereby strengthening research and education within cryo-electron microscopy in the Nordic region.”

Göran Sandberg, Executive Director of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, says: “By uniting cryo-electron microscopy strongholds in Denmark and Sweden, CryoNet will serve as an important vehicle for exchanging people, knowledge and ideas across these countries. Through this network of leading structural biologists and our collaboration with the Novo Nordisk Foundation, we want to advance research collaboration across borders and significantly advance research of the highest excellence.”


The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation was established in 1917. The Foundation’s aim is to benefit Sweden by supporting Swedish basic research and education, mainly in medicine, technology and the natural sciences.The Foundation achieves this by awarding grants to excellent researchers and for projects.

Since 1917, the Foundation has awarded SEK 25 billion in grants for research and education, of which SEK 1.8 billion has been awarded annually in recent years, making the Foundation the largest private funder of scientific research in Sweden and one of the largest in Europe.


Carina Dahlberg, Science Communicator,
Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, phone +46 70 273 68 50, [email protected]

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