Eva Hoffmann

Eva Hoffmann says: “Up to one in 20 children are born with congenital disorders that originated in the parents’ sperm or egg. This is much higher than in other organisms and we have long wanted to understand what happens when parents pass on their DNA to their children. Questions such as what makes us different from our parents, how does our DNA change, and what can go wrong. We are now in a position to start addressing these fundamental questions about human genetics. We will generate an atlas of sequences from human eggs, sperm and embryos from earliest stages of development to explore what genetic changes we see and how these processes occur. Some of the processes lead to severe genetic aberrations that result in infertility and pregnancy loss, whereas others sustain development – understanding these features of human genetic variation may provide insight into congenital disorders and their origins.”

Eva Hoffmann is Danish and was in 2015 recruited from UK to University of Copenhagen as Professor at ICMM.

Chuna Ram Choudhary

Chuna Ram Choudhary says: “The human body contains hundreds of different types of cells that perform different biological functions. Remarkably, all cells contain an identical copy of the genome, yet the same genetic information is differentially decoded in different cells, allowing activation of a different set of genes in different cells. Different gene products are then translated into different proteins that perform different functions, and ultimately give rise to functionally different cell types. Regulatory genome elements, called enhancers, act as central regulators of gene transcription and enable cell-type-specific differential decoding of the same genome. How enhancers control some genes, without affecting others, remains a major unresolved mystery in biology. This project aims to provide a deeper mechanistic understanding of gene expression regulation in mammalian cells and illuminate the molecular principles by which enhancers activate their target genes.”

Chuna Ram Choudhary is of Danish Nationality, born in India, has his PhD and postdoctoral experience from Germany, and was recruited as an associate professor to Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen in 2009, where he became Professor in 2013.

Jesper B. Andersen

Jesper B. Andersen says: “In Europe, the bile duct cancer incidence has increased 236% since 1980, with regional difference rising 7-fold over the past decade. Whereas cancer mortality has declined and therapy in other cancers improved, surgical resection still remains the only curative option for this patient group. The disease is often sporadic with unknown etiology, and patients are diagnosed at late-stage with locally advanced or metastatic disease, and a 5-year prognosis below 10%. In my research program, I will determine the viral exposures in a patient’s life and use these unique molecular footprints as guides to define the trigger of chronic inflammation and cancer. B cells are our humoral guardians responding to infections by producing antibodies. Yet, their pathobiological role and molecular states in contact with tumor cells are unknown. Thus, determining novel B cell tumor evasion mechanisms in bile duct cancer will allow us to start to develop specific B cell targets.”

Jesper B. Andersen is Danish, but has had his early career in the US, where he did his PhD and postdoc. In 2014 he was recruited as an associate professor to University of Copenhagen, and he was tenured in 2020.

Julien Duxin

Julien Duxin says: “DNA-protein crosslinks (DPCs) are dangerous lesions found in our genome. If not repaired, DPCs cause aging and cancer in humans. Moreover, most chemotherapeutics used in the clinic kill cancer cells by generating DPCs. Despite their relevance to humans, we know little about how these lesions are repaired. A major difficulty is to reliably monitor DPCs in cells, which is currently not possible using existing methods. To bypass this barrier, we have recently used protein extracts derived from frog eggs to recapitulate DPC repair in a test tube. This unique approach allowed us to uncover the existence of specialized processes operating in our cells that remove DPCs and thereby prevents cancer and aging. Because these lesions are incredibly diverse, we are now proposing to use our unique approach to study the repair of the major classes of DPCs so that we can establish overarching principles of how these lesions are sensed and removed from the genome.”

Julien Duxin is of French Nationality, with both a PhD and a postdoctoral stay in the US. In 2016 he was recruited as an associate professor to University of Copenhagen.

Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams: “There is increasing evidence that diet and the gut microbiota may interact to regulate the immune system, and how the body responds to infection. Disturbances in this complex relationship may result in chronic infections or autoimmune diseases.Dietary fibre promotes a healthy gut microbiota and may reduce chronic inflammation. However, we have discovered that in some contexts high levels of fibre may increase susceptibility to infection with intestinal parasites. Given that parasitic worms infect more than a billion people worldwide and represent a major public health concern, there is a pressing need to undertsand this interaction. Here, we will use mice and pigs to model the infectious process to investigate how dietary fibre changes the gut microbiota and alters the immune response.”

Andrew Williams is British with a PhD from Australia and has been associate professor at University of Copenhagen since 2017.

Katrine Schjoldager

Katrine Schjoldager says: “Bioactive peptides (neuropeptides and peptide hormones) are key regulators of numerous physiological processes from blood glucose levels to blood pressure, mood and perception of pain. Dysfunctional bioactive peptide (BP) signalling is associated with a number of diseases including diabetes, Alzheimers and hypertension, and BPs constitute a major class of promising druggable compounds. Understanding how peptide signalling is modulated in health and disease is therefore of great importance. My team has discovered that a large number of bioactive peptides are modified with sugar-moieties, and we want to establish new and improved methods and a deeper understanding of how these sugar-modifications effect or regulate the functions of the bioactive peptides. The project has significant promise for discovery of novel designs for peptide therapeutics for a range of common diseases.”

Katrine Schjoldager is Danish and has been an associate professor at University of Copenhagen since 2018

Kathleen Stewart-Morgan

Kathleen Stewart-Morgan says: “Primordial germ cells, the precursors to sperm in males and oocytes in females, undergo many changes and transformations throughout development. One of the most dramatic changes is to the epigenome, the proteins and chemical tags on DNA that regulate how the cell “reads” its genome. Germ cell development also entails waves of proliferation, where germ cells divide and multiply, and apoptosis, where a proportion of germ cells die. What differentiates germ cells that survive apoptosis from those that die is unclear. By assaying the germ cell epigenome throughout development and relating epigenome changes to proliferation and apoptosis, this project will examine the role of epigenome reprogramming in germ cell survival. This will provide new insights into how epigenome reprogramming in germ cells occurs, and the epigenome’s role in germ cell quality and function.”

Kathleen Stewart-Morgan who is of American nationality is currently a postdoc at the Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen but will relocate to the Institute of Cellular and Molecular Medicine to establish her own research group. She states: ”ICMM is the perfect place for me to establish my group as there are experts in stem cell and germ cell biology, state-of-the-art sequencing methodologies and shared interests in gametogenesis, embryology, epigenetics, and chromatin biology, which will be extremely beneficial in executing my research program.”

Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller says: “Each time our cells divide they must accurately duplicate their DNA so that both daughter cells receive an identical set of genetic instructions. A failure to accurately duplicate the genome can lead to genome instability and cause age-related disorders, including cancer. Genomes of all organisms are duplicated by protein machines called replisomes, which frequently encounter ‘obstacles’ that can prevent faithful DNA replication. This project will reveal how replisomes normally overcome these obstacles in healthy cells and why a failure in these processes causes human disease. To do this, we will use electron microscopy to image replisomes as they encounter and coordinate the repair of DNA-protein crosslinks (DPCs), a common and highly toxic obstacle to DNA replication. Our results will provide insights into how our cells maintain genome stability and may identify opportunities for enhancing current chemotherapies that kill cancer cells by forming DPCs on DNA.”

Thomas Miller is British and relocated in 2021 from his postdoctoral position at the Francis Crick Institute in London to the Center for Chromosome Stability at ICMM to establish his independent research group. He says: “The CCS at ICMM is ideally suited for my research and I look forward to contributing to the growing structural and chromatin biology communities in Copenhagen. My distinct approach will provide numerous opportunities for collaborative work locally”.

Junsheng Chen

Junsheng Chen says: “Many important biological questions require imaging of large volume sample at the nanometer scale. The recent progress of expansion microscopy meets such requirement by expanding the sample and imaging it by conventional microscopy. However, the expanded samples show low signal to noise ratio because the expansion process dilutes the fluorescence markers. This becomes the major bottleneck for implementing expansion microscopy to standard biological labs. In this project we will implement ultrabright fluorescent nanoparticles for expansion microscopy and ensure this technique to be accessible for biological labs with conventional microscopy setups. Moreover, we will take advantage of the easy tunability of emission color and lifetime of the bright nanoparticles to develop expansion microscopy with 20 detection channels. This multichannel technique allows us to study in a new way how neurons place protein synthesizing machinery in different subcellular compartments providing us with insights currently not available.”

Junsheng Chen was born in China and finished his PhD in Lund University, Sweden in 2018. Since summer 2021 he has been assistant professor at the Department of Chemistry at University of Copenhagen. This Hallas-Møller Emerging Investigator grant will allow him to establish his own independent research group at the same institute.

Rebecca Louise Miller

Rebecca Louise Miller says: “Heparin is a widely used anti-clotting drug. Although most biologic drugs are produced using recombinant technologies, heparin persists as a product purified from animal tissues. A cell-based system for production of heparin would eliminate risk of supply shortage and contamination, which have had serious outcomes, as well as bypass the use of animals and lengthy purification processes. Production of recombinant heparin in mammalian cells requires engineering the heparan sulfate biosynthetic pathway, which consists of over 20 biosynthetic enzymes. My project aims use genetic methods and advance technologies to engineer and install heparin biosynthesis in a cell line. We have reached a stage in this endeavour to predict that we can design and produce improved heparin without the most serious side-effects. The project thus holds promise for sustainable, better, and safer heparins.”

Rebecca Louise Miller, who is of British nationality, has been an associate professor (non-tenured) at the Center for Glycomics at University of Copenhagen since 2021. She further states: “I am in a unique position with direct access to the world-leading glycosaminoglycan discovery platform, as well as beyond state-of-the-art instrumentation and the uniquely suited environment at the Copenhagen Center for Glycomics”.