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Helene Charlotte Wiese Rytgaard

Helene Charlotte Wiese Rytgaard says: “One of the key challenges in medical research consists in analyzing the effects of treatments administered over time using real-world data. Here traditional statistical methods and standalone machine learning approaches may either be inapplicable or fail to yield clinically meaningful results. The obstacles that a sound statistical approach needs to deal with are continuous-time dynamics, including irregular monitoring, and complex treatment decisions, changes of patient characteristics, and health outcomes. This research project aims to develop, extend and implement advanced statistical methods integrating machine learning techniques for analyzing treatment effects in observational healthcare data, to provide more reliable tools for informed medical decision-making by patients, clinicians, and drug developers. The project will expand and enhance modern statistical causal inference tools combined with machine learning techniques and continuous-time models, to data-adaptively model the dependence between life-course events and treatment decisions, while accurately and efficiently addressing essential medical questions regarding dynamic administering of treatment. The goal is to provide a toolbox containing methods and corresponding software implementations that can be used to gain valuable insights into how the administration of treatments over time impacts patient survival and disease progression, beyond what is possible with existing methods.”

David Duchene Garzon

David Duchene Garzon says: “Identifying infected animals as early as possible allows us to minimize the spread of a pathogen and even prevent a pandemic. At the moment, we can only make sure that an
animal is infected by costly laboratory analysis. This is problematic for livestock and wildlife given the limited funds that can be spent on each animal, yet these settings are the most common source of dangerous pathogens to humans. Surprisingly, video data is not yet being used for identifying infected animals, despite great strides in video analysis in recent years.

This project will cover this gap and improve our ability to halt epidemics in their tracks. A broad range of animals will be filmed, and their behavior will be compared with their blood tests. Whether infected or not, each recording will help train computers, which will inform us about how pathogens can drive behaviour. A free app will then be developed for companies, governments, and lay people to detect infected animals at a minimal cost.”

Mathias Spliid Heltberg

Mathias Spliid Heltberg says: “Modern data analysis has transformed how we study life’s complexities. My proposal merges different ways to study the complex machinery of living cells, and by developing new algorithms and applying advanced methods to analyze the data, I aim to obtain new levels of details of the physical mechanisms in the cell.

When we look into the center of a cell, we see proteins gathered in small droplets and showing waves in their concentration profile. To understand how this can emerge, we are using new tools to analyze data and develop new ways to obtain more information from the experiments. With this, the hope is to reveal how droplets and oscillations interact and understand how this can impact cellular function. Last year, I discovered that DNA repair is guided by formation of droplets and oscillations in the concentration of proteins, and with new data analysis I hope to advance this hypothesis. Put in simple terms, my group will use data analysis to solve a puzzle: how cells orchestrate resources in space and time to complete fundamental tasks.”

Josefine Bohr Brask

Josefine Bohr Brask says: “Social networks describe the pattern of social connections between individuals in a population. For example, the friendships among children in a school class, the grouping patterns within a dolphin population, and the grooming interactions within a group of chimpanzees, can all be described as a social network, where each node is an individual and the links are their social connections.

Social networks play an important role in the lives of both humans and non-human animals. The structure of the networks affect the spread of disease and information, and the social connectedness of individuals affect their health, well-being and survival. Social networks are therefore of great scientific interest.

A key question about social networks is how the complex structures arise from the behavioural strategies that individuals use to select their social partners. Answering this question is essential for understanding social systems, and for predicting their reaction to future societal and environmental challenges.

In this project, we develop and use new computational methods for the study of networks, within two main methodological regimes: statistical analysis of network data, and simulation of networks via computer algorithms (generative network modelling). Our aim with this is to advance the study of networks and our understanding of the emergence of social network structures.”

Kristian Thijssen

Kristian Thijssen says: “Many organisms at high enough density start to display collective motion, including flocks of birds, schools of fish and on the micro-scale microorganisms. These swimming microorganisms are found everywhere: within humans, in soils and in industrial installations, and they display remarkable pattern formations at sufficiently high densities. We describe the collective motion of these swimmers as a “living liquid”. Just like a regular liquid, the container of the living liquid governs the dynamics, i.e. in a box, flowing through a pipe etc. However, many relevant biological systems exist in pliable environments where this living liquid can alter its soft surrounding. Hence, we expect to observe mutual interactions between liquid and surrounding, which this proposal seeks to investigate. This could open pathways for regulating bacteria dynamics to aid biodegradation, hinder contamination, combat medical infections and help with fertility problems to improve non-hormonal birth control.”

Nikolai Albert

Nikolai Albert says: “Persons diagnosed with schizophrenia can go for months, and even years, experiencing hallucinations and delusions before they receive treatment. The duration of this period is associated with how well the patients later recover from their illness. Currently there is no agreement on an effective method to reduce the period of untreated psychosis. Denmark is in a unique position to test if campaign-backed early detection teams can lead to more promptly treatment as region Zealand, as the only region in Denmark, has used the model for 10 years. We will include patients with schizophrenia from region Zealand and the Capital Region, to test if the intervention is effective in reducing the duration of untreated psychosis, and further if this reduction impacts the two-year functional outcome. If successful the model can be exported to alle Danish regions, and lead to improved treatment for schizophrenia both nationally and internationally.”

Nikolai Albert has a longstanding interest in schizophrenia and related disorders and is currently doing his specialist training at Mental Health Center Amager to become a psychiatrist. He further says: “The Clinical Emerging Investigator Fellowship from the Novo Nordisk Foundation will be instrumental in establishing myself as research leader within the field of early intervention in psychosis”.

Lauge Østergaard

Lauge Østergaard says: “One of the main heart valves is the mitral valve and dysfunction of this may lead to symptoms as shortness of breath and fatigue leading to hospitalization and increased risk of death. The only treatment option at the moment is surgical. Although frequent and potentially lethal, guidelines on the treatment of this disease need data from well-validated, large cohorts. Building a database with detailed descriptions of patients with this disease and linking this database to the unique Danish health care registries could help in the understanding of when the patient should be offered surgery. Further, this project will set the ground for the examination of a medical treatment option for the improvement of the prognosis. If successful, the project will allow the first ever medical strategy for improving prognosis in patients with severe mitral regurgitation.”

Lauge Østergaard has a particular interest in mitral valve disease and is currently doing his specialist training in cardiology at Department of Cardiology, Bispebjerg-Frederiksberg Hospital. He says: “The Clinical Emerging Investigator grant will permit me to combine my clinical and research training and allow me to establish my own research group within the field with the overall aim to establish better treatment options for the many patients with mitral valve disease.”

Mette Julsgaard

Mette Julsgaard says: “Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are chronic conditions of the gastrointestinal tract that are diagnosed in the fertile age. Immunosuppressive drugs are used to induce remission, also in pregnancy, but may also have negative effects on fetal outcome. Pregnancy requires increased iron for fetal development. IBD itself may negatively impact iron availability but its influence on neonatal outcomes and development is unknown. The aim is to study the safety of immunosuppressive drug exposure in pregnancy on the fetus, and the impact of potential iron restriction on neonatal outcomes and development. By analyzing nationwide registers, neonatal dried blood spots, prospective collecting maternal and infant blood samples, and conducting patients surveys the project will answer fundamental questions, which will lead to improved care of women with IBD and other autoimmune disorders. Overall, it may improve maternal- and fetal outcome by influencing the management of iron disorders in pregnancy.”

Mette Julsgaard has the last 15 years focused her research on investigating treatment of pregnant inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients and outcomes in their offspring. She is currently doing her specialist training in Gastroenterology & Hepatology at the Dept. of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, at Aarhus University Hospital. She further states: “This funding will permit me to increase my research efforts and allow me to establish a research group. Moreover, it will lay the foundation for a National Danish IBD Preconception and Pregnancy Planning Clinic at Aarhus University Hospital, which is crucial in providing the best possible evidence-based treatment and equal care for pregnant IBD patients in Denmark.”

Nikolaj Fibiger Rittig

Nikolaj Fibiger Rittig says: “The gut plays an important role for metabolic health and appetite regulation. We will explore how different compounds affect the gut and regulates metabolism and appetite (the gut-brain-appetite axis). Lactate is particularly high in fermented food products and we have recently shown that lactate stimulates gastrointestinal hormone secretion, and slows gastric emptying. Lactate is also produced and converted into the metabolite N-lactoyl-phenylalanine (lac-phe) and studies in mice suggests that lac-phe may induce satiety and weight loss. Butyrate is a small fatty acid mainly produced by bacteria in the colon where it may elevate energy expenditure, improve immune functions, and regulate appetite. The overall aim with this project is to perform a series of human clinical studies that investigate how different compounds (lactate, lac-phe, and butyrate) activate and affect the gut-brain-appetite system”.

Nikolaj Fibiger Rittig has for several years been associated with the Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus, Aarhus University Hospital. He is currently doing his specialist training at Klinik for Hormon og knoglesygdomme at Aarhus University Hospital. He says further: “The Clinical Emerging Investigator fellowship will allow me to build my own research group with focus on gut-brain-appetite regulation, perform research at a high international level and continue my work as combined clinician and researcher”.

Rasmus Kock Flygaard

Rasmus Kock Flygaard says: A characteristic feature of life is the need to separate the exterior world from the interior environment of a cell. This is achieved by the use of semi-permeable bilayer membranes. In bacteria and eukaryotic mitochondria, an important and special membrane building block, named cardiolipin, is used. Although mitochondria were once bacterial cells on their own, mitochondria and bacteria use different mechanisms to make cardiolipin. The details of this difference are unknown to us. In this project, I want to reveal this difference on a molecular level, and I will study why important human parasites have retained a bacterial-like system to synthesize cardiolipin. The results of my work will hopefully elucidate why some patients, who cannot make cardiolipin, become very sick. Ultimately, my results will also serve to determine if parasites can be battled by targeting their cardiolipin synthesis machinery.

Rasmus Kock Flygaard is currently employed as a Postdoc at Aarhus University and will establish his independent research group from 1 October 2023.