15 January 2013

Grants attract top researchers to Copenhagen


Two international leading researchers have each been awarded a Novo Nordisk Foundation Laureate Research Grant of DKK 40 million (€ 5.36 million). The two professors will now move their research to University of Copenhagen. It is the first time the Foundation awards these new individual researcher grants.

The aim of the Laureate Research Grants is to strengthen Danish research within biomedicine and biotechnology.

The Danish research community will now be enriched by two of the world's leading names within cell regulation and bacterial persistence.

Professor Stephen M. Cohen, National University of Singapore, and Professor Kenn Gerdes, Newcastle University (UK), are the first to receive the Novo Nordisk Foundation's new Laureate Research Grants. The 7-year grants, which have been offered internationally in open competition, are of DKK 40 million (approx. € 5.36 million) each and are thus the largest individual research grants the Foundation has awarded to date. The aim of the grants is to bring international leading researchers within biomedicine and biotechnology to Denmark and thereby strengthen Danish research. The two professors will be employed at the University of Copenhagen and will be in Denmark for at least seven years.

"I am very pleased that Professor Stephen M. Cohen and Professor Kenn Gerdes choose to move their research to the University of Copenhagen. Their arrival means that the University will gain significant new research areas that may provide important contributions to the research at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and the Faculty of Science," says Rector Ralf Hemmingsen, University of Copenhagen.

Professor Stephen M. Cohen.

Genetic cooperation and bacterial life

Professor Stephen M. Cohen, 56 years of age, has amongst other scientific achievements during his career, made a major contribution to the understanding of how micro-RNA helps to control how a cell develops. Cohen's research in Denmark will focus primarily on the role that microRNA plays in relation to cancer. The research will help us to understand how different genes cooperate in the development of cancer and metastases. The ultimate goal is to identify new biomarkers for diagnostics and new targets for treatment.

Professor Kenn Gerdes, 58 years of age, has carried out pioneering research in persistence of bacterial infections. His research group has recently shown that the genetic elements known as toxin-antitoxin genes makes it possible for bacteria to stay alive in their host organism, even though they are sensitive to antibiotics. This can cause recurring or chronic infections. Gerdes' research in Denmark will focus on increasing our understanding of how bacteria survive and will promote the development of new methods for the control of relapsing and chronic infections.

Professor Kenn Gerdes.

Stephen M. Cohen and Kenn Gerdes will now start building their research groups at the University and will over the next few years gradually move all their operations to Copenhagen, so that in 2015 they will be fully employed at the University of Copenhagen.

"With the new, substantial Laureate Research Grants, the Novo Nordisk Foundation aims to bring some of the world's best researchers to Denmark. This will strengthen Danish research in both the short and long view, while also contributing to the Foundation’s vision of making Denmark an international beacon for research within biomedicine and biotechnology. This will be achieved by developing and strengthening the country's scientific skills, training researchers and achieving world class scientific results," says chairman of the Board of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Ulf. J. Johansson.

About Stephen M. Cohen

Canadian professor, 56 years of age.
Coming from: Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Agency for Science Technology & Research, National University of Singapore.
Will be employed at: Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

"I was attracted by the possibility of collaborating with the cancer research community in Copenhagen. Our work is geared toward generating hypotheses using the fruitfly as a genetically tractable model for cancer. During my visits to Copenhagen, I found that the clinical research community was very open to the idea of working with us. Their enthusiasm for testing new ideas played a big part in persuading me that Copenhagen would be the right place for us to do this work. Support from the Laureate Research Grant will provide a stable long-term foundation on which we can build our research program," says Stephen M. Cohen.

About Kenn Gerdes

Danish professor, 58 years of age.
Coming from: Institute for Cell & Molecular Biosciences, Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, Medical School, Newcastle University.
Will be employed at: Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen.

"The Novo Nordisk Foundation Laureate Research Grant is long-term funding that will allow us to attack difficult basic scientific questions without the need for quick returns in terms of scientific progress. This is a unique possibility because it allows young researchers employed in non-permanent positions to stay focused on basic research. University of Copenhagen and other universities in the Copenhagen area host world-leading research groups working on medically important pathogenic bacteria. Besides, the Copenhagen area (including southwestern Sweden) is home to one of Europe’s strongest life science clusters. Together, these realities were crucial parameters in my decision to move to Copenhagen," says Kenn Gerdes.


Press officer Christian Mostrup Scheel
The Novo Nordisk Foundation
Phone: +45 30 67 48 05