4 January 2023

Eight SUND-researchers receive grants to high-risk projects


Research daredevils from Danish universities and hospitals receive the Lundbeck Foundation Experiment grants. Eight researchers from SUND are among the recipients who receive a total of DKK 16 million to implement their high-risk projects.

Risk risk parashooting
Photo: Canva.

Each year, the Lundbeck Foundation awards up to DKK two million to audacious projects with sufficient innovation altitude, short fuse and fast launch, where some will end up as duds, but all of which have the potential to break with prevailing truths in science.

All projects are within neuroscience or related research areas that can enrich the field of brain research. They have the potential to create ground-breaking new knowledge, even if the goal may change along the way.

At the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (SUND) at the University of Copenhagen, eight researchers receive the Experiment grant to embark on an undoubtedly difficult task that may prove to pay off on the career path as well.

On average, the individual grant is close to DKK 2,000,000. The amount is paid out over two years and gives the recipient the opportunity to immerse themselves in the hypothesis that he or she wants to investigate further.

Read about the eight projects at SUND below:

Associate Professor Andrew Williams – DKK 1,997,480

Titel: Tuft cells – overlooked players in the gut-brain axis? 

This project explores the gut-brain signalling that may occur during chronic inflammatory disorders such as obesity, suggesting that it can be corrected by the presence of gut parasites that activate this circuit. In this way, neuroinflammation caused by gut dysbiosis can actually be alleviated by parasitic worm infection. In vitro methods, including culture of organoids and enteric neurons, will be used to investigate this interplay, as well as test the therapeutic potential of tuft cell activation in mouse models of obesity-induced neuroinflammation.

Associate Professor Birgitte Rahbek Kornum – DKK 1,991,325

Titel: A novel hypothesis for narcolepsy type 1 pathogenesis.

Narcolepsy type 1 is a sleep disorder hypothesised to be driven by an autoimmune destruction of hypocretin/orexin (HCRT) neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. This project explores the hypothesis that local processes in the hypothalamus induces a susceptible state allowing the autoimmune attack to happen. Since H1N1 influenza and other upper airway infections increase the risk of developing narcolepsy type 1, we hypothesise that the hypothalamic response to a peripheral infection initiates processes causing the HCRT neurons to become more vulnerable.

Postdoc Francesco Bavo – DKK 2,000,000

Titel: Novel modalities for modulation of glycinergic signaling in the brain

The goal of this interdisciplinary project is the development of small molecules, which can selectively induce degradation of the neurotransmitter GlyT1 in vitro and in vivo (PROTACs); and to investigate partial depletion of GlyT1 through genetic manipulation as a novel therapeutic approach for treatment of schizophrenia, epilepsy and stroke.

Associate Professor Jens Christian Rekling – DKK 1,999,632

Titel: Model of the first relay station in the gut-brain communication

The gut converse with the brain like no other organ, informing the central nervous system about feeding status. Studying this communication has been difficult since the involved systems are widely separated and difficult to access experimentally. The project aims to provide a better understanding of how signalling systems, involved in satiety and hunger, transmit sensory information from the gut. The model can be used in drug discovery projects that target gut-brain signalling systems involved in metabolic disease, like obesity.

Postdoc Joakim A. Bastrup – DKK 1,999,999

Titel: Mapping protein changes involved in cerebrovascular dysfunction that leads to Alzheimer's disease

This project will establish a novel translatable rat model of sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) that encompasses key features of the underlying disease mechanisms. Establishing the first reference map connecting cerebrovascular dysfunction and AD will pave the way for discovering new biomarkers and therapeutic targets.

Assistant Professor Rita Monteiro – DKK 1,999,131

Titel: What are neural enhancers made of? A novel approach to characterise enhancer-specific proteomes

Enhancers are DNA sequences that regulate gene expression and can do so from great genomic distances. More than 40 years since their discovery, the means by which they select specific genes and regulate their transcription remains unknown. In this proposal, Rita Monteiro seeks to address the question of their activity by providing a complete picture of the proteins that bind specific enhancers. Thus, hoping to unravel new features of general transcriptional regulation by enhancers while providing important insight into the role of these sequences in neural development and disease.

Associate Professor Tune H. Pers – DKK 1,943,144

Titel: Massively parallel detection of neuronal activity

The purpose of this project is to develop a tool, SNAP (Single Neuron Activity Predictor), enabling massively parallel detection of neurons that exhibit changes in their activity levels upon stimulation. The idea is to exploit the fact that neurons react to stimulation with changes in their gene usage. By combining chemogenetic tools with highly efficient techniques for measuring gene expression and chromatin organization at the single-cell level and deep learning approach, a computational tool for neuron activity measurement with unprecedented scalability is proposed.

Assistant Professor Walden Bjørn-Yoshimoto – DKK 1,998,355

Titel: Elucidating the cone snail toxinome

This project will use new approaches to map interactions between novel peptide sequences and G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The peptide sequences are derived from cone snail venom, a rich source of bioactive peptides that are indispensable in neuroscience research, as well as clinical applications. Proposing to map these interactions at scale in the entire chemical diversity of cone snail toxins, providing unique tools for the scientific community.