30 November 2023

Globe researchers receive Sapere Aude DFF Starting Grant

Research leaders

Three researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences receive the Sapere Aude DFF Starting Grant. They each receive DKK 6 million for their innovative projects.

The recipients
Congratulations to: Luise Ørsted Brandt, Kristine Bohmann and Alexander Sebastian Hauser.

The Independent Research Fund Denmark (DFF) has just announced the 39 winners of the Sapere Aude DFF Starting Grant.With the prestigious grant, the young research talents get the opportunity to develop and strengthen both their research ideas and their research management.

Sapere Aude: DFF Starting Grant was created to give younger researchers, who have achieved research at the top of their field, the opportunity to develop their research ideas as well as develop or strengthen their skills as research leaders. The recipients have all conducted top-class research in their field.

This year, three SUND researchers are among the winners of the grant. Dean Bente Merete Stallknecht is delighted with the news and highlights that the grant strengthens the researchers’ leadership skills and provides them with opportunities to get international experience.

“First and foremost, I would like to congratulate our talented researchers. The Sapere Aude DFF Starting Grant is a unique opportunity to promote independent research ideas and provide talented young researchers with leadership experience – partly because the grant increases their opportunities to do research abroad. This benefits Danish research, as researchers with experience from abroad strengthen important international relations and interdisciplinary collaborations, and it benefits the university by providing the many talented researchers we have here at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences with international input and new inspiration,” says Dean Bente Merete Stallknecht.

The three grant receivers at SUND are Associate Professor Luise Ørsted Brandt (Globe), Associate Professor Kristine Bohmann (Globe) and Alexander Sebastian Hauser (ILF). Read about their projects below.

This is imperative at a time when research is crucial to tackling global challenges such as pandemics and the green transition, and the new research leaders will show the way, says Jørgen Frøkiær, Chair of the Board at DFF.

"Although the winners do excellent, independent research within all parts of the scientific world, the 39 new research leaders have one thing in common: They have all been part of a tough elimination race, where only the very best are left with the Sapere Aude DFF Starting Grant," he says.

In order to reach the finish line, the 39 new research projects have gone through a thorough evaluation process: first two rounds of evaluation by the fund’s professional research councils, then individual peer review by international experts and finally an interview conducted by a cross-council committee in the fund, where the 39 new Sapere Aude research leaders have been selected.

Independent Research Fund Denmark has received 349 applications and awarded 39 grants, corresponding to a success rate of 11%, both in terms of amount applied for and number of applications. The number of female applicants was 122, and 15 Sapere Aude DFF Starting Grants were awarded to women, giving a success rate of 12%. For male applicants, the success rate is 11% with 227 applications and 24 grants.

The three researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences receive just over DKK 6 million each. Read more about the projects below.

Associate Professor Luise Ørsted Brandt (Globe) has received funding for the project Imported fur in Viking Age Denmark and its importance as visual marker

Grant: DKK 6,185,227

Extensive international trade is one of the main characteristics of the Viking Age, and fur is considered one of the main commodities, as it is mentioned in contemporary Arabic and European sources. However, we know very little about the importance of fur as a commodity in Denmark and Scandinavia where sources are limited to short rune texts. Fur is a difficult material to study archeologically, because it decomposes quickly in the ground. Nonetheless, in a recent study (2022) I subjected fur to protein analysis and found the first tangible proof that fur was indeed imported to Denmark. Previously, fur was believed to have been reserved for the elite and used only for visible parts of the clothing – as a status symbol. The new project aims to establish how much fur was imported to Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries, and whether it was used as a status marker in general. It is the first project to systematically study preserved fur from existing collections and to further develop methods for identifying the species using protein analysis and, subsequently, determining where the fur came from and how it was used as a status marker in Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries.

Associate Professor Kristine Bohmann (Globe) has received funding for the project New frontiers in biomonitoring – airborne environmental DNA for terrestrial vertebrate and insect surveys (airDNA)

Grant: DKK 6,189,463

To counter the current biodiversity crisis, we need accurate information on what animal species occur where. However most species are hard to record. A few years ago, my research group and I came up with a solution: we developed a so-called 'DNA vacuum,' and we demonstrated that mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles leave DNA traces in the air that we can collect and use to map their presence. In the Sapere Aude project, my research group and I will firstly investigate whether airborne DNA reflects local insect communities - the maybe ecologically most important animal group. We will then develop the underlying DNA methods to make it possible to generate data across land-living mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects through so-called 'multiplexed metabarcoding’ of air samples. We will apply the method to airborne DNA collected across ecosystems and climate zones. Ultimately to develop an efficient method for mapping land-living animals through a single – and omnipresent – substrate: air.

Associate Professor Alexander Sebastian Hauser (ILF) has received funding for the project Pleiotropic effects — from drug targets to drug actions

Grant: DKK 6,191,443

Recent years have seen a surge in global biobank initiatives. Biobanks, such as the UK Biobank or the forthcoming National Genome Center, store extensive genetic data from DNA sequencing of numerous individuals. Linking this data with electronic health records or drug usage offers insights into gene-health interactions. To utilize this vast amount of data, the researchers will apply advanced computational methods and experimental strategies to investigate how this data can be used for designing more personalized treatments for individual patients—a concept known as personalized medicine. A focus area is the G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) family, vital in many physiological processes. The researchers will investigate how differently regulated drug targets contribute to unwanted side effect and how genetic variability in GPCR genes impact drug responses, to enhance the precision and design of more effective medications.