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Three Health researchers receive Sapere Aude millions

Three cheers for Health! Ole Schmeltz Søgaard from Department of Clinical Medicine and Kathrin Weyer and Søren Egedal Degn from Department of Biomedicine are among this year’s Sapere Aude recipients. All three researchers receive million-kroner grants to boost their research.


Assistant Professor Kathrin Weyer, Department of Biomedicine, receives DKK 6,191,540.

A quarter of the Danish adult population suffer from high blood pressure. Blood pressure is regulated by a hormone system which controls the contraction of the blood vessels, with the hormone angiotensin II (ANG II) playing a key role. Increased ANG II in the kidneys is a contributing factor to high blood pressure and may also affect the kidneys.

With the grant, Kathrin Weyer will be able to expand her research into high blood pressure and kidney diseases, and she hopes to be able to learn more about this hormone system. Kathrin Weyer is particularly interested in a newly discovered ANG II receptor in the kidneys and will study the receptor’s role in regulating blood pressure and its significance for the development of high blood pressure and kidney diseases. The goal is to identify fundamental mechanisms in the regulation of blood pressure and create new knowledge that can potentially lead to new treatment strategies.

Assistant Professor Søren Egedal Degn, Department of Biomedicine, receives DKK 4,428,113.

Autoimmune diseases are the collective name for a range of diseases – including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and lupus – in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissue. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the so-called B cells which normally produce protective antibodies against external viruses and bacteria, are often responsible for initiating autoimmune reactions by wrongly forming antibodies against the body's own tissues and instructing other immune cells to attack these.

Søren Egedal Degn will study this process in detail by means of a newly developed model and will clarify the particular factors that determine when and why things go wrong in the immune system. In the long term, the goal is to be able to influence this process and thereby contribute to better treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Associate Professor Ole Schmeltz Søgaard, Department of Clinical Medicine, receives DKK 6,148,457.

Despite more than 35 years of research, there is still no cure for HIV. To eliminate HIV from the human body, it must be possible to distinguish the sick and virus-infected immune cells from healthy immune cells. This has proven to be extremely difficult because HIV integrates itself in the DNA of cells and can remain inactive for years. When the virus is inactive, the immune system cannot recognise the difference between a sick and a healthy cell because they are identical on the surface.

Ole Schmeltz Søgaard is working to find the precise characteristics that separate cells with HIV from cells without HIV, and he will examine which properties determine whether the virus-infected cell survives or dies when HIV treatment begins.

About the Sapere Aude grants

The Sapere Aude grants are awarded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark to talented early career researchers to give them the opportunity to develop and strengthen their own research ideas and establish themselves as research directors with the foundation's financial assistance.

This year, the Independent Research Fund Denmark has awarded Sapere Aude grants to 35 researchers on the basis of 346 applications. Eleven of these recipients come from Aarhus University – including three from Health.

See list of all 35 Sapere Aude recipients at the Independent Research Fund Denmark's website

This coverage is based on press material from the Independent Research Fund Denmark.