19 March 2020

Partnership receives grants of DKK 25m from the Carlsberg Foundation to fight corona


The Carlsberg Foundation awards a Semper Ardens grant to researchers from UCPH, AU, RH and SSI for the development of methods for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infections. The research will provide new, important knowledge about viruses and their properties and equip the world to better cope with future viral epidemics like Covid-19.

Ali Salanti in the lab.
Professor Ali Salanti working in the laboratory.

The world is in the middle of a emergency health crisis following the spread of the new type of coronavirus, which in just around four months have spread from China and have become a pandemic. Worldwide, the number of cases of illness and deaths related to Covid-19 are increasing rapidly.

For this reason, the Carlsberg Foundation have decided to award a Semper Ardens grant to a group of leading Danish researchers within proteins, vaccines, and diagnostics from the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, Rigshospitalet and State Serum Institute (SSI). The grant amounts to DKK 25 million. With the grant the researchers will look into developing tools, which can limit or even prevent similar future pandemics.

Three tools are needed to get a pandemic under control. One is better and simpler tests to diagnose patients and to be able to assess the spread of infection and thus assessing the development of herd immunity in the population. The second is anti-viral pharmaceuticals specifically for treating Covid-19. The third tool is a vaccine to prevent the disease.

“The Carlsberg Foundation has moved fast and put together a team of the very best Danish researchers within the relevant research fields to help fight the coronavirus and Covid-19 disease - both in relation to the current pandemic as well as future ones. It is now evident that we are utterly challenged in several areas regarding our knowledge about virus and its ability to spread. And that preparations that could have been done before the outbreak were not done. We would like to help prevent a similar situation from happening again. This is why we award DKK 25m to a group of the very best researchers of this country, who immediately start working to develop the necessary tools to combat both the current Covid-19 situation and future pandemics so we will be better equipped for the future”, says professor Flemming Besenbacher, chairman of the Carlsberg Foundation.

Efforts across disciplines

Since the end of February, the disease has begun to spread in Denmark and more than 1000 people have been infected. Therefore, it is essential that the Carlsberg Foundation has reacted quickly with the grant for research in Covid-19.

“The world is hit by a crisis of unprecedented dimensions so it is essential that the Carlsberg Foundation has reacted quickly. We have put together a unique consortium of Danish researchers who have been assigned to deliver a vaccine against Covid-19 in a short time, based on a promising but untested vaccine concept. The consortium will also start working on a diagnostic test and alternative treatment options based on new so-called “aptamer technologies”. With this grant, we are confident of the opportunity to play an important role in the fight against this rapidly spreading virus. Right now, I have 10 men waiting around the clock in an otherwise empty “Panum”, and I very much look forward to telling them that we now have research funding for this important task,” says Ali Salanti, professor at Department of Immunology and Microbiology, UCPH, and leader of the project.

Jørgen Kjems, professor at Aarhus University and one of the group leaders of the project says:

“The situation with the coronavirus reminds us of the importance of research into anti-viral drugs. We must find faster and more effective ways to diagnose and treat future virus attacks and at the same time preventing infection with better vaccines. This project spans over several disciplines to solve these tasks with brand new innovative methods. Although we may be late for the current epidemic, I am certain that with this research effort, funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, we will be much stronger next time virus ravages the world.”

Michael Theisen, professor and group leader at State Serum Institute (SSI) says:

“The fight against coronavirus requires both outstanding research ideas and strong experience in their translation into concrete and useful methods to combat Covid-19 infections and the spread of disease within the population. This requires us to collaborate across research fields and in that way bring the various necessary competencies into play. That is exactly what this grant from the Carlsberg Foundation allows us to do.”

Faculty of Social Sciences, UCPH, has also received a grant from the Carlsberg Foundation for research in social behavior during the Covid-19-epidemic in a collaboration with researchers from Aarhus University and Technical University of Denmark. Read more about the project here.

Read more about the grants at the Carlsberg Foundation's site.


Professor Ali Salanti, KU, +45 28757676, salanti@sund.ku.dk

Professor Jørgen Kjems, AU, +45 28992086, kjems@inano.au.dk

Professor Michael Theisen, SSI, +45 20888302, mth@ssi.dk

Professor Peter Garred, RH og KU, +45 26806606, peter.Garred@regionh.dk