BioWorld International Correspondent

Proteomics research in Denmark has received a substantial boost - in the form of a DKK600 million (US$109 million) grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to establish a new center for protein research at the University of Copenhagen.

The university already has attracted two scientists to lead research teams at the center - Mathias Mann, currently at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, and Søren Brunak, currently at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Lyngby. Three more will be recruited, Ulla Wewer, dean of the faculty of health sciences at the University of Copenhagen, told BioWorld International, either nationally or internationally.

Each of the five research groups will be funded to the tune of about $2.5 million annually. The cash, which will be allocated over a 10-year time frame, also will support the establishment of a core proteomics facility that will be staffed by about 20 to 30 people. It will have capabilities in protein engineering and production and in purification and characterization, Wewer said.

Mann and Brunak will divide their time between Copenhagen and their other respective institutions. Mann, one of the world's most highly cited scientists in the field of mass spectrometry-based proteomics research, previously held a faculty position at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. His work at Copenhagen will focus on proteomics in signaling and cell differentiation and will extend recent work on understanding the dynamics of signaling events, such as phosphorylation.

Brunak's work will focus on integrating systems biology and bioinformatics with information on human disease, in order to open up new therapeutic avenues.

"Both these names are really great. They're internationally competitive and open to collaboration within Denmark," Ole Nørregaard Jensen, chairman of the Danish Proteomics Society and a professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Southern Denmark, told BioWorld International.

The project, billed as the largest ever basic research initiative in Denmark, came about through "dialogue and discussion" with the Gentofte-based Novo Nordisk Foundation, Wewer said. Through its wholly owned subsidiary Novo A/S, the foundation has 25.5 percent of the equity and 69.4 percent of the voting rights in Bagsværd-based Novo Nordisk A/S. In addition to supporting research within the Novo Group of companies, the foundation also has a wider social, humanitarian and scientific mission.

The protein research center, Wewer said, is driven by a basic research agenda, but it also will have impacts on education and on translational research and could open up new concepts in drug discovery and biomarker research.

The initiative, which will get up and running in 2008, will further strengthen Denmark's international position in protein research. "Denmark is already at the forefront in proteomics," Jensen said. It also will strengthen the position of the University of Copenhagen within the national life sciences sector. Along with the DTU and the University of Aarhus, it recently was designated an elite institution by the Danish government.

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