25 June 2021

UCPH’s research in microbiology and infectious diseases move to highest international level with donation for new state-of-the-art laboratories


With a large donation from the A.P. Møller and Wife Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation for general Purposes, the University of Copenhagen now gets the opportunity to establish a new facility in the Mærsk Tower, which will be the first of its kind in Denmark. In the so-called GMO level 3 laboratories, researchers in Denmark will be able to work with viruses in a much more advanced manner than now and thus create new knowledge for the benefit of society.

The Mærsk Tower as seen at night
The new laboratories will be located in the Mærsk Tower at Blegdamsvej (Photo: Adam Mørk)

Chair of the A.P. Møller and Wife Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation for general purposes, Ane Mærsk Mc-Kinney Uggla, says:

“The ambition with the Mærsk Tower was to ensure that Danish research had access to state-of-the-art biomedical research facilities. The new GMO level 3 laboratories will help Denmark recruit researchers at the highest international level within vaccine development and other related research areas. Areas with the outmost relevance given the dramatic development of the last year.”

Smart investments in research and new knowledge pay off. That became evident with the quick turnaround from basic research to development of new vaccines against Covid-19. These vaccines are now paving the way for a reopening of Denmark and societies all over the world.

However, viruses will still present a very real future threat to public health. Therefore, it remains important to have skilled researchers who can find new treatments and develop vaccines just as it will stay crucial to invest in modern and secure research infrastructure, which enables working with potentially harmful microorganisms.

With the generous donation from the A.P. Møller Foundation, the University of Copenhagen now get the opportunity to start preliminary examinations for the project. When completed, researchers will have access to world-class GMO level 3 laboratories. The new facility will quite literally be ‘built in’ as a secure area within the Mærsk Tower at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

“It is fantastic for all researchers working with microorganisms and the immune system that we are now getting access to GMO level 3 laboratories at the University of Copenhagen. It is a visionary investment from the A.P. Møller Foundation, which will provide a tremendous advantage for our research environments. It is an investment that makes it possible to elevate our research within virus and vaccines to the highest European level”, says rector at the University of Copenhagen, Henrik C. Wegener.

Rigorous security protocols and control from authorities

The new facility in the Mærsk Tower will allow access to the first GMO level 3 laboratories on Danish soil. This will advance the infrastructure around research in microbiology, infectious diseases as well as vaccines.

In the laboratories, researchers will be able to grow cells and work with viruses and bacteria in risk group 3, which means microorganisms that cause diseases like yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile fever, pandemic influenza, Tick-borne encephalitis, tuberculosis, MERS and Covid-19.

Dean Ulla Wewer and Jens Bukh in the empty rooms where the labs will be established
Professor Jens Bukh is a leading researcher in viruses and will benefit greatly from the new facilities. Here, he and Dean Ulla Wewer are on the floor of the Mærsk Tower that will house the new facilities. (Photo: Jacob Lejbach Sørensen, UCPH)

“These a severe infectious diseases and that is why it is very important that we prioritise the necessary basic research. Without it, we could never win in the fight against these diseases. On the other hand, working with these viruses and bacteria requires rigorous security measures”, explains Dean Ulla Wewer.

The risk classification means that there are strict security protocols associated with working in the laboratories. This includes access control via an air-lock, special precautions surrounding ventilation, destruction of waste, protective clothing, and that access is limited to personnel trained in handling these types of microorganisms. It is basically a hermetically sealed environment that will now be built from within.

Completes the Mærsk Tower

Back in 2017, when the Mærsk Tower was built, it was a part of the plan that even more advanced laboratories could be established within the building, among them GMO level 3 laboratories. This means that the physical surroundings of the new facility are top-notch and tailored for this.

Professor Jens Bukh and Ulla Wewer looking around in the empty rooms
Dean Ulla Wewer and Professor Jens Bukh in the empty area where the facility will be established. (Photo: Jacob Lejbach Sørensen, UCPH)

“The new GMO level 3 laboratories will be the finishing touch to the Mærsk Tower. It completes a research tower, which is already very visible far beyond the Danish Borders. Denmark is becoming an increasingly interesting collaborator in the international research environment and an attractive place to invest for large companies working with the medical challenges of tomorrow,” ends Ulla Wewer.

The new GMO level 3 laboratories is planned to be established at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology within the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.


Ulla Wewer, Dean at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences - via:

Head of Communication Thomas Fahrenkrug
+45 93 56 57 97

Carsten Geisler, professor and Head of Department at Department of Immunology and Microbiology