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.

Gilles Vanwalleghem

Our gut is regulated by the enteric nervous system, and together with the gut microbiome, it constitutes the gut-brain axis. Imbalance in the gut-brain axis can lead to chronic inflammation, impact mental health and lead to a decreased quality of life.

Gilles Vanwalleghem says: This proposal will use a transparent fish to look at the enteric nervous system and inflammation in development. We will compare how the gut develops with or without microbiome in an inflammed state. We will look at how this inflammation could impact the gut and its function. On the other hand, the enteric nervous system can sense bacteria and guide inflammation, and we will develop mutants to better understand how this works. Finally, we will look at how all these factors can influence the social behavior of the fish, and if we can help the fish develop normal behaviors. The results will guide us in how and when we can best intervene on the gut to ensure good gut function and normal neurodevelopment.

Gilles Vanwalleghem moved from University of Queensland to Aarhus University in 2021. He is now employed as a team leader within Danish Research Institute of Translational Neuroscience (DANDRITE) and as Assistant Professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, where he will establish his independent research group from September 2023.

Laurits Skov

Laurits Skov says: Our closest evolutionary relatives the Neanderthals and Denisovans are now extinct. However, part of them still lives on through us in our genomes. Most people of non-African descent trace 1-2% of their ancestry to Neanderthals and 0.01-5% to Denisovans, and we can therefore reconstruct the genomes of these extinct archaic humans from our own genomes. This will allow us to answer questions such as: How many archaic humans contributed to our genomes? How many times did we encounter them and how long did we coexist? When did they go extinct? How do their genes affect us today? Are there parts of our genomes that are uniquely human?

I will develop novel computational methods to answer these questions and apply these methods to data from 1.1 million human genomes. This will give us a unique glimpse into the past lives and history of extinct humans and characterize their impact on our genomes.

Laurits Skov is currently a postdoc at University of California (Berkeley). He will relocate to the Bioinformatic Research Center (BIRC) at Aarhus University on 1 April 2024 to establish his independent research group.

Signe Mathiasen

In Denmark, the burden of psychiatric and mental disorders has been predicted to constitute 25% of the public health problems and the consequences of mental illnesses is both highly afflictive to individuals and of great cost to society.

Signe Mathiasen explains: In this project, we study a new and novel receptor target in mental health, the adhesion G protein-coupled receptor latrophilin 3 (ADGRL3), which is implicated in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other psychiatric disorders that involve dopamine dysfunction, such as schizophrenia. Specifically, the goal is to map the dynamic localization of ADGRL3 receptors in the cell membrane and to correlate its movements to interaction partners out-side and in-side the cell. This will enable us to determine how, where and when ADGRL3 function as a signaling unit with its key synaptic interaction partners. Such basic understanding can help uncover the potential of ADGRL3 as a novel drug target for new and improved pharmacotherapies in e.g. ADHD.

Signe Mathiasen moved back to Denmark in 2020, after working as a scientist for six years at Columbia University. She is currently employed at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, where she will establish her independent research group with the NNF Emerging Investigator grant starting 1 April 2024.

Niina Sandholm

Over 500 million people worldwide have diabetes. Diabetic complications such as diabetic kidney disease, eye disease, and cardiovascular diseases affect every second of the patients. Even though these complications pose a massive burden both for the individual and for society, the current treatment can only slow down the progression of these complications rather than curing them. In this project we search for genetic and epigenetic factors predisposing to diabetic complications, as well as for serum proteins that could serve as biomarkers, i.e., predict onset of the complications in order to identify the individuals at risk. Furthermore, combining the genetic, epigenetic, and proteomic data with the health registries and disease outcomes will help us understand the disease processes from genetics to epigenetics to proteomics to the disease.

Lærke Gasbjerg

When you eat, food is digested by the intestines and transferred to the blood. The blood stream transports the digested food to organs of your body which for example need food as an energy source. Eating is therefore essential and when you eat, the blood volumen is increased in the abdominal area to support the digestion and transport digested food. But for some people, this phenomenon leads to symptoms such as dizziness, raised pulse, and fainting. They suffer from low blood pressure called postprandial hypotension and are challenged by eating due to the invalidating symptoms. With this Novo Nordisk Foundation Investigator Grant, I will establish my research group at University of Copenhagen and Rigshospitalet (Copenhagen) and study blood volumen changes in two patient groups with modern imaging techniques (MRI) and also, study the mechanism as well as evaluate treatment options in animals based on hormones that we know are related to blood volume changes during eating.