Kyung Mih Noh

Our research explores chromatin mechanisms in neurodevelopment and brain disorders. Chromatin comprises DNA and histone proteins and regulates gene expression, which has an impact on human health. Key questions guide our work: How do chromatin regulators impact neuronal identity and, contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders? (2) Do chromatin states causatively regulate gene expression and cellular function? (3) How do neuronal chromatin states respond to external stimuli, and is there chromatin memory in the neuronal process? (4) What chromatin mechanisms govern interactions between neurons and other brain cell types in neurodevelopment? Using cutting-edge functional genomics, human brain cell models, and single-cell sequencing, we aim to decode molecular networks, providing essential insights into the molecular basis of neurodevelopment and brain disorders. Our efforts hold the potential to advance drug development and personalized medicine.

Frederic Gachon

The circadian clock orchestrates human physiology, including when we eat and sleep, synchronizing it with the daily changes in our environment and the alteration of day and night. Modern western lifestyles, technology, and shift work disrupt our body clock. This disruption is associated with many diseases including obesity and liver and kidney diseases, but the mechanisms responsible are poorly understood, as well as the causal relationship: is this circadian disruption a cause or a consequence of these diseases? This project aims at deciphering the consequences of the disruption of the circadian clock, with the hypothesis that the associated perturbations of our hormones could play a role in the progression of these diseases. This will potentially define new strategies to diagnose, prevent, and treat metabolic dysfunction associated diseases.

Lisa Frankel

Throughout their lifetime, cells face many types of stress from the environment including pollution, UV radiation, pathogen infection and exposure to various toxins. In the face of stress, our cells must adapt to survive and maintain vital functions. If not properly managed, genetic mistakes accumulate and predispose to disease, including cancer. One mechanism for coping with stress is autophagy. This system is crucial for the removal and recycling of cellular waste in order to maintain cellular and tissue homeostasis. Autophagy is deeply conserved in evolution and enables cellular adaptation and survival in response to stress. Using state-of-the-art methods, my team will investigate completely new aspects of autophagy, including its ability to reprogram our genetic instructions in response to stress. By illuminating this new layer of gene expression control, we will provide fundamental understanding of cancer development and progression, with importance for therapeutic developments.

Yoshiki Narimatsu

Sugars cover surfaces of all living cells and these glycans are essential for many of the biological processes required for human life and our relationship with the microbial world. Glycans, much like DNA and proteins, contain information that needs to be decoded. Information in glycans is “read” by glycan-binding proteins and these direct biological signals and functions. The simple way we currently understand how proteins read glycans does not provide a plausible explanation for the great diversity of functions assigned to glycans. I therefore propose that glycans are read in more complex ways. I have developed a novel technology that enables analysis of such complex glycan motif, and recently I obtained the first experimental evidence to support my hypothesis. In this project, I will therefore explore how complex glycan motifs modulate our immune system and how bacteria and virus gain entry and cause pathologies through glycans. The project has wide biomedical perspectives.

Johan Larsbrink

Tree bark is a renewable resource produced in huge amounts every year, but it is today of low-value and poorly used. It is today typically burnt, though its high moisture and ash make this inefficient, and the bark’s different structure from regular wood also makes it unsuitable for regular pulping. The bark contains a high proportion of defensive compounds, known as extractives, which are generally toxic and protects the tree against attacks. The idea of this project is to enable biological conversion of the extractives into novel products that can replace fossil alternatives used today. However, there is virtually no existing knowledge on how bark is deconstructed in nature, which prevents such developments. We will generate the necessary knowledge by following bark degradation, and use identified enzymes and microorganisms to valorize bark, its extractives, and help mitigate material losses in industry.

Ditte Welner

Enzymes can be used to produce many of the things that our society needs with low environmental footprint compared to producing the same thing with conventional chemical methods. UGTs are enzymes that can attach a sugar molecule to a cosmetic ingredient, dye, food ingredient, and other chemicals, thereby increasing the water solubility and stability. However, most UGTs cannot withstand the conditions present in industrial processes, so it becomes very expensive and unsustainable to use them. But nature has a place to look for stable enzymes: the extremophiles. These are organisms living in extreme environments such as geysers, the arctic, the desert, or deep down in the sea. They have evolved to withstand these hard conditions, and so have their enzymes. This project discovers novel, robust enzymes from extremophiles, and uses these to learn something about what control an enzymes robustness. The project will also develop low-impact biosolutions.

Bjørn Panyella Pedersen

The project will uncover the secrets of how plants transport sugars and the hormone auxin across membranes. This process is crucial for proper plant growth and development, but despite extensive research, the details of how this functions remain unclear.
Here we explore the 3D structures of key transporters to help us understand how substrates – including herbicides which utilize these transport systems – affect plant growth. This will allow us to predict and modify plant responses to changing environments, with significant implications for agriculture and sustainability.

Beyond practical applications, this research will provide a breakthrough in our understanding of fundamental plant metabolism, specifically in maintaining sugar and hormone balance. This knowledge is essential for addressing global challenges, such as ensuring sufficient food production while minimizing environmental impact. In essence, this project holds a key to a more sustainable and food-secure future.

Oliver Van Aken

Perhaps surprisingly, plants are sensitive to mechanical stimulation caused by wind, water drops, and gentle touching by insects or neighboring plants. Mechanical stimuli can change the plant’s physical appearance and flowering. ‘Touching’ may also increase plant resistance to pathogens, insects and abiotic stresses by stimulating its defense systems.

Very little is known about how plants detect mechanical stimuli, and how they induce physiological and molecular changes. Mechanical stimulation also has clear application potential, as controlled rolling has been widely used in Japanese grain agriculture to improve yield for centuries. The practical usefulness in Nordic agriculture is, however, unknown. This project aims to reveal the processes that control touch responses in plants, and exploit the potential of controlled mechanical treatment to improve sustainable agriculture.

Joanna Rorbach

Mitochondria are essential organelles in our cells that convert food into energy. This process is important for health and even subtle insufficiency in mitochondrial function can cause pathologies. Therefore, understanding mitochondrial function is highly relevant to a diverse spectrum of diseases with neurological, cardiovascular and metabolic phenotypes, as well as cancer and the aging process. Mitochondria possess their own genome that encodes proteins that are components of the energy-producing machinery called the oxidative phosphorylation system (OXPHOS). Mitochondria-encoded proteins are produced by mitochondrial ribosomes inside mitochondria. Defects in this process cause OXPHOS dysfunction, leading to diseases.
The objective of this research is to investigate mitochondrial ribosome function using advanced biophysical and molecular technologies.  In the longer term, a description of this fundamental process will allow for a better understanding of mitochondrial diseases.

Anette Wolff

Autoimmune endocrine disorders are large contributors to health threats. Today’s treatment still only manages the symptoms of disease and not the cause. Patients with monogenic endocrine autoimmunity with combined immunodeficiency syndromes where the causative gene is involved in immune activity are found with high titer cytokine antibodies (anti-IFNω and anti-IL22) in their sera, which we can use as screening tools. We here aim to screen registries of endocrine and immunodeficiency disorders for such autoantibodies and identify monogenic syndromes and novel genes responsible for such syndromes. This information can be used to inform us about more general mechanisms behind endocrine autoimmune disorders and give clues for how we can prevent or cure diseases in the future. We will furthermore investigate how tissue cells interact with immune cells in an example of such a disorder (APS-I), being possible because we have unique access to biopsies from this patient group.