New research centre is going to catch up on lost knowledge of human genes
All life is based on a genetic process where genes are transcribed and translated into proteins. The Danish National Research Foundation has invested a large sum of money in a new research centre that will investigate the field between the two main elements of gene expression, transcription and translation.
Out of the blue one Monday morning, Professor Jesper Svejstrup got a call. It was from CEO Søren Peter Olesen from the Danish National Research Foundation, who told him that he had received a Centre of Excellence grant of DKK 68 million over a period of six years.
“Of course, I was extremely happy. It is a great honour to receive such a grant. The long-term funding enables us to plan our research better. I am really, really excited,” says Jesper Svejstrup, who up until three years ago was based at the Francis Crick Institute in London.
Now he is head of the new Center for Gene Expression (CGEN), which focusses on DNA decoding, also known as gene expression, which consists of two main elements: transcription and translation.
We know there is a connection and a whole lot of interaction between transcription and translation. Unfortunately, our knowledge of this connection has fallen behind, and that is what we are trying to change here
Transcription is the first part of the process, where DNA is translated into RNA, and translation is the second, where RNA is translated into proteins, i.e. the molecules that act as the workhorse of the cells of humans and all other living organisms. Regulation of all fundamental processes – differentiation, metabolism, response to e.g. stress etc. – begins with gene expression.
“Over the years, the study of gene expression has branched into a number of scientific disciplines, including transcription and translation, which unfortunately have developed into two remotely connected fields. But we know there is a connection and a whole lot of interaction between transcription and translation. Unfortunately, our knowledge of this connection has fallen behind, and that is what we are trying to change here.”
Using a wide repertoire of state-of-the-art techniques and methods, the Center for Gene Expression shall investigate these processes in a more holistic manner to achieve comprehensive knowledge of gene expression and its regulation focussing on connections between fundamental processes.
“Most people know the expression: ’It is part of her DNA.’ But what does that mean really? To answer this question, we have to understand the entire process of gene expression. In fact, this is the foundation for understanding all life – from conception to disease. All hereditary diseases are a result of changes in gene expression,” says Jesper Svejstrup.
The new centre is comprised of four research teams: the Gregersen, Bekker-Jensen and Svejstrup teams and a fourth team that is currently being established. Each team conducts specialist research in gene expression.
“The other teams’ expertise complements our expertise, and that enables us to achieve the synergy characterising a Centre of Excellence,” says Jesper Svejstrup.
The new centre was established on 1 April, and in January 2024, the four groups will relocate to shared facilities in the Maersk Tower.
Jesper Svejstrup is particularly looking forward to learning more about fields that fall outside his area of expertise:
“I like to learn. And the other teams contribute knowledge that falls outside our main area of expertise, so I look forward to working side by side with them. Our communication is bound to become more dynamic when we are able to chat over a cup of coffee.”
Professor Jesper Q. Svejstrup
+45 22 49 64 09
Journalist and Press Officer Liva Polack
+45 35 32 54 64