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SEK 188 Million to Research at the University of Gothenburg


Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have been awarded one-third, or SEK 188 million, of all the money allocated by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in the form of project grants this year.

‘This proves that our research is of the highest international class,’ says Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg.

The Foundation grants funding primarily to basic research in medicine, science and technology. The awarded grants enable researchers to embark on risky and long-term projects. Five projects will share the amount and receive from SEK 29 million to SEK 44.7 million over five years.

Genetic Damage in Cells' Power Stations

Maria Falkenberg, professor of biomedical laboratory science, will receive SEK 34.5 million to study genetic damage in mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cell’s power plants and genetic damage in them may cause mitochondrial diseases, which 20 children in Sweden are diagnosed with every year. The scientists want to study for example why damaged DNA in the mitochondria is not distributed evenly, but instead differ in prevalence both between organs and between cells in the same organ.

‘This is an important explanation to why the symptoms vary so widely, but it remains unknown why the damage is distributed so unevenly,’ says Falkenberg.

Intestinal Flora and Health

Fredrik Bäckhed, professor of molecular medicine, will receive SEK 43.2 million to study the connections between the intestinal flora and health. Bäckhed will explore the genetic material of gut bacteria in over 1 700 individuals, an endeavour that may ultimately lead to new treatments of diabetes type II.
‘We want to find out if the changed intestinal flora actually precedes the disease and is not simply a reflection of it. That’s why we want to study so many people, and also investigate by which mechanisms bacteria affect the disease,’ says Fredrik Bäckhed.

Correlations in the Microcosm

Raimund Feifel, professor of physics, studies correlations between electrons, which are some of the world’s smallest components. His researcher team was granted SEK 36.3 million for research that continues building on Einstein’s photoelectric effect.

‘If our research team can find out whether an event in the microcosm can possibly be said to occur earlier than another, it will imply a great leap forward for our understanding of one of the most important theories in physics, the quantum theory,’ says Feifel.

Biological Aging

Professor Thomas Nyström’s research team will receive SEK 44.7 million for research on biological aging – from studies of individual cell components to the communication between them.

‘A host of evidence suggests that part of the aging problem can be attributed to errors in this communication. It remains unknown how the communication occurs; all we know today is how units in a cell behave in isolation,’ says Nyström, professor of microbiology.

The Composition of Mucus

Professor Gunnar C. Hansson’s research team will receive SEK 29 million for research on the protective layer of mucus in our airways and intestines that bacteria are unable to penetrate. The mucus consists of web-like molecules that must be organised in a certain way in order to serve as a protective barrier. If the barrier in the intestines fails, bacteria will come in contact with the tissue and cause an inflammatory response in the intestine – ulcerative colitis.

‘In order to develop new and better medicines, first we need to know exactly what the molecules look like and understand how they stick together,’ says Gunnar C. Hansson, professor of medical and physiological chemistry.

In this year’s call for research grants, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is awarding a total of SEK 560 million to 18 Swedish research projects that are deemed to be of the highest international calibre and to have a potential to lead to future scientific breakthroughs.