Kjeld Schmiegelow

Kjeld Schmiegelow says: “We know of more than 6,000, most often hereditary, “rare diseases” (RD), including childhood cancer. Together, the RD affects more than 250 million people worldwide. In children, cancer is responsible for 20% of all deaths. In PREDICT, we will use cancer in children, and especially leukemia (most common childhood cancer), as a prototype for RD and provide new knowledge about what variations in human genetic material mean for the development of cancer (and other diseases) and for the course of the disease. Using modern genetic engineering, including a new method of analysis that we have developed, we will (i) identify individuals who have a congenital increased risk of developing cancer, (ii) identify whether the new method of analysis can be used in the national screening of newborns for hereditary diseases, (iii) examine thousands of cancer patients to map the effects of hereditary factors on cure rates and the incidence of side effects, and (iv) uncover how patients and healthy individuals experience the application of the new knowledge about their genes.”

Kjeld Schmiegelow is Consultant at the Juliane Marie Centre, Rigshospitalet, and professor in Pediatrics at Department of Clinical Medicine, Copenhagen University since 2005.

Henning Bundgaard

Henning Bundgaard says: “Certain environmental factors and disorders in the expecting mother are associated with heart defects in the newborn. However, these factors may also be associated with more subtle abnormalities in the newborn heart that may present much later in life. This project will investigate the association between common maternal risk factors (diabetes, thyroid and connective tissue disorders) and more overt modifiable factors (smoking, weight and night-shifts) during pregnancy and the impact on the heart in the newborn and later in childhood, through heart examinations of children at birth and again at 5 and 10 years of age. This project will generate knowledge of which neonatally identified subtle abnormalities may require follow-up or even early intervention. The major expectation is to obtain insight into the effects or contributing factors to subgroups of cardiac disorders seen in adults including coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart failure, valve calcification and hypertension.”

Henning Bundgaard is Consultant in cardiology at Department of Cardiology, Rigshospitalet, and has been Professor at Institute for Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, since 2015.

Photo: Rigshospitalet

Stefan Stender

Stefan Stender says: “This project aims to identify genetic factors that influence progression of five common diseases: type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, fatty liver disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We hypothesize that there are distinct ‘onset-promoting’ and ‘progression-promoting’ genetic factors for any given disease. To test this, we will scan the genomes of 600,000 persons from the British and Danish population for genetic variants that affect disease progression. The genetic variants identified in the project have the potential to yield new insights into the factors that drive human disease. Such insights may ultimately inspire the development of new drugs targeting the causal pathways, aiming to forestall or even reverse disease progression.”

Stefan Stender has been a staff specialist at the Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Rigshospitalet, since 2021.

Jakob Christensen

Jakob Christensen says: “Epilepsy is a common brain disease that can affect children, young people and the elderly. The disease has a great impact on the people affected by it and their families, and epilepsy is associated with a high morbidity and a high mortality rate. This study will try to find the causes of epilepsy in different age groups – and look at how environmental and genetic causes play together. The study uses data from Danish registers and Danish biobanks and is expected to be able to provide completely unique results that can only be produced using Danish data and the results are expected to receive great international attention.”

Jakob Christensen is Consultant in Neurology at the Department of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital, and associate professor at Department of Neurology, Aarhus University.

Michael Mæng

Michael Mæng says: “Patients with coronary heart disease have a substantial risk of recurrent events such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and premature death. This increased risk is present despite optimal treatment. The aim of our project is to examine the interplay between this increased risk of recurrent events and the presence of prediabetes, diabetes, and novel cholesterol lipoproteins using a large cohort based primarily on the Western Denmark Heart Registry with long-term follow-up and dedicated intravascular imaging of coronary atherosclerosis.  We want to: 1) estimate the risk associated with having prediabetes, 2) to examine why diabetes is associated with a two-fold risk of myocardial infarction, and 3) to examine how novel cholesterol lipoproteins in the blood influences a) cholesterol content in the coronary plaques and b) the following risk of myocardial infarction.”

Michael Mæng is senior consultant at the Department of Cardiology, Aarhus University Hospital, and associate professor at Aarhus University since 2016.

Christian Lodberg Hvas

Christian Lodberg Hvas: “The intestinal microbiota is pivotal for human health. While microbiota may be disrupted by antibiotics or intestinal disease, it may be restored by faecal microbiota transplantation, called FMT. In severe diarrhea caused by the bacteria C. difficile, FMT may cure up to 90% of the patients. Some vitamins or minerals may also improve the microbiota. I wish to explore how FMT and specific vitamins or minerals exert their positive effects on the microbiota. This is done by scientific studies and by clinical trials. For FMT to become available to all patients in need, the basis for a suitable legislation is needed. I wish to contribute to that during European research collaborations. The vision in the project is to save lives and improve nutrition through modulation of the intestinal microbiota, for the direct benefit of patients with intestinal diseases.”

Christian Lodberg Hvas is consultant gastroenterologist at Department of Hepatology and Gastroenterology, Aarhus University Hospital, and associate professor at Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, since 2016.

Photo: Poul Ib Henriksen

Martin Blomberg Jensen

Martin Blomberg Jensen says: “This project aims at uncovering the role RANKL – a protein known to be important for bone health – for male fertility. I have identified this protein in the testis and inhibition of the protein increases the production of sperm. This finding may be of clinical relevance as there exist a RANKL inhibitor used to treat osteoporosis in women and maybe we can repurpose this treatment as a novel treatment option for some infertile men. This will be of great interest because there exists no treatment for male infertility today. Instead, the women are treated with invasive and expensive assisted reproductive techniques even when the women are healthy. By studying the effects of RANKL inhibition in mouse models, human testis models, and by injecting the drug into infertile men our approach will show whether this may serve as a novel treatment option for some cases of male infertility.”

Martin Blomberg Jensen has established his independent research group at Department of Growth and Reproduction, Rigshospitalet, and is currently doing his specialist training in endocrinology. He says: “This grant will be fundamental to secure continuity in my group in the year to come and for achieving my overall aim of creating an expert center for bone and mineral research/disease in east Denmark”.

Lars Wiuff Andersen

Lars Wiuff Andersen says: “Cardiac arrest occurs in approximately 7000 patients each year in Denmark. 30 days after the cardiac arrest, only 15-25% are alive. In order to increase this low survival, I will conduct two clinical trials that will test interventions in patients with a cardiac arrest. During a cardiac arrest, the blood becomes very acidic. Bicarbonate is a treatment that counteracts this acidity. In the first trial, we will test whether the administration of bicarbonate can improve outcomes for patients with in-hospital cardiac arrest. In the second trial, we will test what the best approach to drug delivery is during out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. A small catheter placed into a vein is the standard but during cardiac arrest it is often easier and quicker to place a needle into the bone marrow. In this trial, we will directly compare the two different approaches and determine which is the best for the patients.”

Lars Wiuff Andersen has since 2017 been Associate professor at Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University and is doing his specialist training at Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care at Aarhus University Hospital. He further says: “The receipt of this grant, and the successful conduct of the two proposed trials, will be of utmost importance to my research group and myself. This will consolidate me as an international leader within clinical cardiac arrest trials and pave the road for future national and international collaborations.”

Karen Schreiber

Karen Schreiber says: “Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is a disease that most often affects women of childbearing age. Women with APS experience pregnancy complications, such as recurrent first-trimester pregnancy loss, intrauterine death, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and fetal growth restriction. Although current treatment regimens including aspirin and heparin have improved pregnancy outcomes, 30% of these women continue to have pregnancy complications. Clinical study has suggest that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in addition to standard of care treatment improves the pregnancy outcome in these women. We have therefore designed the first randomized controlled multicentre clinical trial of HCQ in patients with antiphospholipid antibodies. Our aim is to find out if the addition of HCQ to standard of care treatment will improve pregnancy outcomes in these women. Moreover, we will try to explain the underlying disease mechanism.”

Karen Schreiber has spent almost 10 years in the UK researching rheumatic disease and APS at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital in London but recently relocated to Denmark to enter the Danish specialist training in Rheumatology. She further states: “I am extremely humble and grateful for the support. The Clinical Emerging Investigator grant will allow me to establish myself as independent researcher with my own research group and anchor my international network and the HYPATIA study at the newly established ‘Center for Viden om Gigt’ (CeViG) at the Danish Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in collaboration with all major Danish University Hospitals. The grant will allow me to work in close collaboration with international experts in the field.”

Thomas Aagaard Rasmussen

Thomas Aagaard Rasmussen says: “The main barrier to curing HIV is persistence of virus in long-lived cells despite antiretroviral treatment (ART). It was recently shown that long-term persistence of infected cells is sustained through changes in cell death pathways, which can be targeted with venetoclax, a drug recently approved for leukemia. Given that the persistent HIV reservoir is established at the time when ART is commenced, I hypothesise that venetoclax will have its greatest effect on promoting death of infected cells and limiting long-term HIV persistence if administered concurrently with starting ART. I aim to test this in a randomised, controlled clinical trial in people with HIV initiating ART, where we will apply state-of-the-art methods to quantify HIV persistence and activity in cell death pathways.  If successful, this will demonstrate a transformative new approach to targeting HIV persistence and will inform how and when inhibitors of apoptosis proteins can be used as part of an HIV cure strategy.”.

Thomas Aagaard Rasmussen has for several years been associated with the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at The University of Melbourne, most recently as Associate Clinical Director for HIV Cure Studies. He has relocated to Aarhus University Hospital to finish his specialist training and says further: “The Clinical Emerging Investigator fellowship will be instrumental in establishing myself as a research leader at Aarhus University Hospital and at the same time remain associated with the clinic”.