May 10, 2019

The Novo Nordisk Foundation awards DKK 413 million to 44 research leaders at different stages of their careers

The Novo Nordisk Foundation’s new Research Leader Programme gives researchers the opportunity to pursue ambitious projects, solve complicated problems and develop new techniques and methods. The Programme also aims to support the continuing development of top researchers.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded 44 grants of up to DKK 10 million each to outstanding research leaders at different stages of their careers at universities, hospitals and other research institutions throughout Denmark and in the other Nordic countries.

The grants, which last 5 years, will enable these researchers to pursue ambitious projects within such fields as medical science and biotechnology that will create new knowledge on topics such as health, disease and environmentally friendly production methods.

One project will examine how viruses develop resistance to antiviral medicine, thereby contributing to combating infections in the future. Another project will focus on how the fat we eat influences the development of cells and tissue in the body; and a third project aims to create knowledge on how enzymes in plants produce their many complex substances. This knowledge can lead to better technology for production of medicines and vaccines.

“In awarding these 5-year grants, we aim to ensure that excellent researchers have a stable funding base for their research in the long term. This gives them the opportunity to pursue risky, innovative research ideas and to dare to think differently and explore new ways of and approaches to solving important questions. This is often where the potential to make important new discoveries exists,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

“With this Programme, we wish to support the continuing development of these researchers. The Programme supports both younger talents and established professors at a high international level. In addition, we want to support talented research leaders at the intermediate career stage. Our ambition is that the projects will be able to add new knowledge to benefit health and sustainability,” says Birgitte Nauntofte.

The Foundation has awarded 44 grants totalling DKK 413 million as part of the Foundation’s Research Leader Programme, to which the Foundation has allocated DKK 2.4 billion (€322 million) over 5 years. Once fully implemented, the Programme will support up to 240 research leaders at different stages of their careers.

The Research Leader Programme comprises four scientific focus areas. Up to 12 five-year grants of up to DKK 10 million each are awarded annually within each of the four areas. The grant awards in 2019 are as follows:

  • Endocrinology and metabolic research. Read more about the 12 grant recipients and their projects here
  • Biotechnology-based synthesis and production research. Read more about the 10 grant recipients and their projects here
  • Clinical and translational research. Read more about the 10 grant recipients and their projects here.
  • Bioscience and basic biomedical research. Read more about the 12 grant recipients and their projects here

“We received numerous qualified applications and look forward to following the progress of the projects in the years ahead. We also hope to have and would like to invite more women to apply for grants under the Programme in the future,” says Niels-Henrik von Holstein-Rathlou, Head of Biomed, Novo Nordisk Foundation, who is responsible for implementing the Programme.

Targeting research leaders at different career stages

The Programme comprises three types of grants targeting a specific or typical stage of a researcher’s career as follows:

  • Emerging Investigator. The grants target young promising research leaders who want to establish or are in the process of establishing their own research group and research profile.
  • Ascending Investigator. The grants target research leaders at the associate professor level to enable them to consolidate their research group and profile.
  • Distinguished Investigator. The grants target professors of the highest international standing and calibre.

Up to 16 grants are awarded annually within each career stage – up to four grants within each of the Programme’s four scientific focus areas.

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. It has two objectives: 1) to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of the companies in the Novo Group; and 2) to support scientific, humanitarian and social causes. The vision of the Foundation is to contribute significantly to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society.

Since 2010, the Foundation has donated more than DKK 20 billion (€2.7 billion), primarily for research at public institutions and hospitals in Denmark and the other Nordic countries as well as research-based treatment and prevention of diabetes. Read more at

Further information

Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, phone: +45 3067 4805,