Large grant for research into dangerous bacteria

​The Novo Nordisk Foundation has granted DKK 60 mill. (EUR 7.9 mill.) to a new research centre in persistent bacterial infections. Such are hard to treat with antibiotics and are one of the most serious global health problems.

Professor and Head of Centre for PERFECTION  Helle Krogh Johansen (photo: Tanya Møller Christiansen, CF-foreningen) 

With a large Challenge grant of DKK 60 mill. (EUR 7.9 mill.) from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, a new research centre at Rigshospitalet will develop strategies to detect and combat persistent bacteria. These bacteria are one of the most serious threats to global health because antibiotic treatment is rarely effective against them. 

The grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation is for a new research centre (PERFECTION), headed by Prof. Helle Krogh Johansen from the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Rigshospitalet and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Biosustainability at DTU. Since 2013, she has been researching specifically into persistent bacteria that exacerbate diseases in patients suffering from everything from lung diseases like cystic fibrosis and COPD, to patients with poor blood circulation, chronic wounds or stomach ulcers. 

  • This new funding give us a unique opportunity to discover how and why some bacteria survive, even though we treat patients with antibiotics," said Helle Krogh Johansen.
She explained that the new PERFECTION research centre is based on a key question – why are persistent infections persistent? Persistent infections strike millions of people worldwide. 

New diagnostic marker

By combining detailed studies of the bacteria that cause persistent infections with completely new infection models in the laboratory, Helle Krogh Johansen and her colleagues hope to obtain knowledge that can be translated into new clinical analyses and examinations. The goal is to find a diagnostic marker to identify the persistent bacteria early on, thereby making for more opportunities to combat infections. 

The combined molecular biological and medical translational research will be carried out by a consortium composed of Head of Centre, Prof. Helle Krogh Johansen (Rigshospitalet), Prof. Thomas Bjarnsholt (University of Copenhagen/Rigshospitalet), Associate Prof. Kim Bak Jensen (University of Copenhagen), Associate Prof. Manuel Amieva (Stanford University, California) and Prof. Søren Molin (Technical University of Denmark). 

The research programme involves microbiological, cell-biological and molecular biological expertise, all covered by members of the PERFECTION consortium. On the basis of existing collaboration on persistent infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, COPD, chronic wounds and stomach ulcers, the Centre will develop infection models based on miniature organs (organs from the lungs, skin and stomach). These models will describe the interplay between infected bacteria and the cells in the relevant tissue and organs under the influence of antibiotics and immune cells. The use of organoids from patients makes it possible to imitate very accurately what is going on in the patients’ own organs during the course of an infection, and it avoids having to use animal models, which often lack relevance and precision.

The design of the Centre will make it possible to offer interested research groups access to carry out experimental studies of other types of infections than those currently in focus in the Centre at Rigshospitalet.

The Challenge grant

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge programme was established to support and promote world-class research aiming at finding answers to challenges within the global technological or health fields. This is the first time since 2014 that the Foundation has given a Challenge grant to a researcher employed at a hospital.

Contact information:

Helle Krogh Johansen, 
Professor and Head of Centre for PERFECTION
Tel. +45 3122 8406

Jonas Gamrath Rasmussen
Communication Consultant at Rigshospitalet
Tel. +45 3545 6474/mob. +45 6124 7399

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