Petra Hamerlik and Ulf Ørom are two young research leaders in basic research. Both are working to improve the understanding of important processes in human cells. This knowledge will provide insight into how some cells become cancer cells but can also lead to developing new methods for treating people with cancer.
The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded each of these talented researchers a Hallas-Møller Investigator fellowship. The Hallas-Møller Investigator fellowship of DKK 11 million over 5 years is one of the Foundation’s largest grants targeting young researchers.
Petra Hamerlik, Junior Group Leader at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center, will be working to produce more information about and ultimately improve the treatment of glioblastoma, an aggressive and life-threatening type of brain cancer. Radiation therapy is the most common treatment for glioblastoma, but this type of cancer often becomes resistant to this treatment over time.
The Hallas-Møller Investigator fellowship will enable Petra Hamerlik and her research group to understand the interaction between the basic cellular mechanisms that copy, read and repair inherited genes – processes that are found in all cells but function at high intensity in glioblastoma – and the role of these processes in both developing brain cancer and the frequent acquisition of resistance to treatment. Petra Hamerlik will identify targets for possible drug therapy that can be combined with radiation therapy to eliminate the cancer more effectively.
Petra Hamerlik says: “Glioblastoma is one of the deadliest of all human cancers. We are investigating how these tumours initiate and progress to lay the basis for developing new therapies. We seek novel targets that are susceptible to drugs, which we will leverage to create therapeutic paradigms to improve the survival of the people with this deadly disease. Being awarded the prestigious Hallas-Møller Investigator fellowship will transform my research, provide stability and empower my research group to take on glioblastoma using efforts with a high risk and yet high reward.”
Based on the Hallas-Møller Investigator fellowship from the Foundation, Group Leader Ulf Ørom is moving his research group from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany to the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics of Aarhus University. The group will interact with the strong RNA research environment and will work to understand how cells synthesize and regulate a minute, non-coding RNA molecule called micro-RNA (miRNA). In particular, Ulf Ørom will use his expertise in miRNA to understand the molecular mechanisms that give rise to unregulated miRNA in cancer cells and use this knowledge to develop new methods that can restore the balance of the processes in cancer cells. In the long term, such knowledge may form the basis of new experimental and therapeutic tools for treating people with cancer.
Commenting on the project, Ulf Ørom says: “The aim is to understand how the miRNA processing is regulated and how this regulation is often disrupted in cancer. The knowledge of both the proteins and the RNA involved in the process will enable us to use tailored molecules to target groups of miRNA to restore the regulation and establish normalized gene expression in cancer cells.”
The Foundation annually awards up to two Hallas-Møller Investigator fellowships, and each grant is DKK 11 million over 5 years.
The purpose of the Hallas-Møller Investigator fellowships is to strengthen the development of young researchers within bioscientific and basic biomedical research with the focus on disease and health but also research on the natural sciences of a more general nature for understanding the human organism. The research projects must be based at a research institution in Denmark.
ABOUT THE RECIPIENTS
Name: Petra Hamerlik
Age: 35 years
Position: Junior Group Leader
Institution: Danish Cancer Society Research Center
Project title: Functional interplay between replication stress-induced genomic instability and cellular hierarchies in therapeutic resistance of glioblastoma
Name: Ulf Ørom
Age: 37 years
Position: Group Leader
Institution: Currently at Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany but moving to the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University
Project title: Targeting primary miRNA processing in cancer
Petra Hamerlik, [email protected], +45 3525 7405
Ulf Ørom, [email protected], +49 176 2028 8692
Christian Mostrup Scheel, Press Officer, [email protected], +45 3067 4805