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Grant: The goal is to prepare the world to resist a pandemic

Professor Søren Riis Paludan from the Department of Biomedicine is one of several leading virus and vaccine researchers who have been hastily assembled to carry out research into solutions that limit and prevent future viral pandemics. The research receives DKK 25 million in support from the Carlsberg Foundation.

The corona virus epidemic is tightening its grip on the whole world, and the development of new methods to limit similar epidemics in the future is urgently needed. For this reason, the Carlsberg Foundation is now granting DKK 25 million in research support towards fighting virus epidemics, both this one and future epidemics.

The recipient of the research funding is a recently assembled group of Danish researchers who work on proteins, vaccines and diagnostics and come from Aarhus University, the University of Copenhagen and Statens Serum Institut. Their task is to quickly provide a new vaccine against Covid-19 based on a promising but untested vaccine concept. Furthermore, the research group must develop a diagnostic test and alternative treatment options based on new, so-called aptamer technologies.

Professor Søren Riis Paludan from the Department of Biomedicine explains his group's role in the project:

"We will test the anti-viral effects of antibodies and aptamers on viral replication. To do this we’ll set up so-called sensitive assays for SARS-CoV2 replication to distinguish an effective treatment from a less effective or ineffective treatment," explains Søren Riis Paludan.

Three tools are still needed

According to Professor Jørgen Kjems from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, who is Aarhus University's group leader on the project, the situation with the corona virus reminds us how important research into anti-viral agents is:

“We must find faster and more effective ways to diagnose and treat future viral attacks while, at the same time, preventing infection with better vaccines. This project spans several disciplines to solve these tasks with brand new innovative methods. Although we may be too late for the current epidemic, I’m certain that with this research effort funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, we’ll be in a much stronger position next time virus ravages the world.”

The research project is being initiated in recognition of the fact that at least three tools are still needed in order to bring the current pandemic under control.

One is better and simpler tests to diagnose patients and be able to assess the spread of infection and in turn assess the development of what is known as herd immunity in the population. The second is anti-viral pharmaceuticals for specifically treating Covid-19. The third is, of course, a vaccine to prevent the disease.

Prevention is the aim of the grant

In light of the experts' assessment of the possibility of a second wave of the epidemic in the autumn, there is an urgent need to engage research resources that may prevent an equally serious situation such as the one the world is facing right now. This is the conclusion of the Carlsberg Foundation's chair of the board, Professor Flemming Besenbacher, in the press release on the grant:

“The Carlsberg Foundation has moved fast and put together a team of the very best Danish researchers within the relevant research fields to help fight the Corona virus and Covid-19 disease – both in relation to the current pandemic as well as future ones. It’s now evident that we are utterly challenged in several areas regarding our knowledge about virus and its ability to spread. And that preparations that could have been done before the outbreak were not done. We would like to help prevent a similar situation from happening again.”

Aarhus University has physically closed down research activities in laboratories to reduce the risk of corona contamination. However, in this extraordinary situation, efforts are made to establish secure research facilities, so that the university’s researchers can contribute to solving the worldwide corona crisis.

The research project is headed by Professor Ali Salanti from the University of Copenhagen. Professor Jørgen Kjems is group leader at Aarhus University and Professor Michael Theisen is group leader at Statens Serum Institut.



Professor Søren Riis Paludan
Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University

(+45) 2899 2066


The article is based on a press release from the Carlsberg Foundation.