Large Grants for Research into Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals – University of Copenhagen

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26 January 2017

Large Grants for Research into Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals


Two research projects at the University of Copenhagen will each receive a grant of DKK 60 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Challenge Programme. The grants support the development of antibiotics against multi-resistant bacteria and the development of new orally ingested pharmaceuticals.

Today, the Novo Nordisk Foundation will hand out DKK 120 million to two international research projects at the University of Copenhagen. The two projects will each receive DKK 60 million for research into new strategies for development of specific antibiotics for treatment of multi-resistant bacteria and new drugs which may be taken orally and are absorbed across the intestinal tissue, respectively.

Knowledge and New Technology for Development of Antibiotics
Peter Eigil Nielsen who is a professor at the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences will receive funds to support a new project aiming to establish a science and technology platform for development of new antibiotics.

The project counteracts the growing health threat from infections and multi-resistant bacteria. Among other things, the platform shall monitor the development of resistance, support the use of existing antibiotics and contribute to the development of new treatment methods and drugs.

Peter Eigil Nielsen says: “The vision is to establish a knowledge and technology platform for development of new antibiotics which will be able to keep pace with the development of resistance on an ongoing basis and thus complement and support the use of existing antibiotics.”

The project has a special focus on how to explore and utilise the ability of peptides - small protein parts - to penetrate the bacterial cell wall and membrane. The research will make it possible to use peptides in genetically targeted antibiotics.

New Knowledge about the Transport of Drugs throughout the Body
The second research project which will receive a grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation aims to support the development of new drugs which may be absorbed through the intestinal tissue. The grant is given to Hanne Mørck Nielsen, Professor at the Department of Pharmacy at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences who will conduct research into the development of biopharmaceutics which may be taken orally.

Today, many drugs are administered to patients as injections using hypodermic needles which will typically cause discomfort and a risk of infection. Therefore, the project is focusing on the development of pills and capsules which may be taken orally and transported through the intestinal system.

Hanne Mørck Nielsen says: “We want to establish new knowledge of how biopharmaceutics interact with and are transported across the intestinal epithelial tissue. In addition, we want to develop new concepts and new technologies and methods to design and study systems for oral drug delivery of biopharmaceutics”.

For many chronic diseases, it will be an advantage if biopharmaceuticals may be taken orally. Oral intake of peptides and proteins has long been a major challenge for drug delivery, i.e. transport of the drug throughout the body. There are no general methods for administering orally ingested biopharmaceuticals because biopharmaceuticals are very susceptible to degradation after intake and absorption in the intestine. In addition, the intestinal biobarriers are relatively impermeable to large, spherical substances such as peptides and proteins.

Recognition of Ambitious Researchers
Ulla Wewer, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences – SUND - is pleased with the allocation of the grants.

"I greatly appreciate the recognition the Novo Nordisk Foundation is showing SUND's researchers through their substantial contributions to health science research. The grants strengthen our efforts to solve core societal challenges and will enhance our research both nationally and internationally. It’s a great accolade for our two researchers, their research groups and colleagues – and not least it emphasises the high professionalism among researchers at SUND", Dean Ulla Wewer says.

Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Challenge Programme
The Challenge Programme was established by the Novo Nordisk Foundation in 2013. The themes of the Programme change every year. In 2016, the projects focused on antibiotics resistance and oral drug delivery of biopharmaceutics, respectively.

The goal of the Challenge Programme is to help strengthen and develop the biomedical and biotechnical research environment in Denmark. All projects are conducted in cooperation with a number of Danish and international partners.

The Challenge Programme is the largest permanent support program of the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The Foundation distributes up to DKK 360 million per year, shared among six grants of each DKK 60 million for a period of six years.

Grant Recipients

Peter Eigil Nielsen, Professor, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, the University of Copenhagen


Anders Løbner-Olesen, Professor, Functional Genomics, Department of Biology, the University of Copenhagen

Anette Hammerum, Senior Researcher, the Danish National Serum Institute

Henrik Franzyk, Associate Professor, Natural Products and Peptides, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, the University of Copenhagen


Hanne Mørck Nielsen, Professor, Department of Pharmacy, the University of Copenhagen


Knud Jørgen Jensen, Professor, Department of Chemistry, the University of Copenhagen

Jesper Glückstad, Professor, Department of Photonics Engineering, the Technical University of Denmark

Urs Otto Hafeli, Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada, and the University of Copenhagen