Active Centers of Excellence

Center for Funtional Genomics and Tissue Plasticity ( ATLAS)
Center leader:Professor Susanne Mandrup
Institution:University of Southern Denmark
Funding period:2017 - 2023
Funding in total:65 mil. DKK
Year:9th Application round

Cellular plasticity is a prerequisite for cellular development and physiological adaptation but is also tightly associated with disease development. Understanding of the mechanisms underlying this plasticity requires the ability to study specific cell types in their complex tissue environment. This is important because the tissue context provides crucial instructions to cells that direct cellular phenotype and response to signals.

The central aim of the Center for Functional Genomics and Tissue Plasticity (ATLAS) is to obtain a cell type and time-resolved understanding of hepatic and adipose tissue plasticity in response to metabolic challenges, in particular diet-induced obesity.

We are applying a combination of novel strategies for in vivo tagging of specific cell types and advanced genomic technologies recording the dynamic changes in the epigenome and transcriptome of cell populations and single cells. In addition, we are utilizing a palette of advanced technologies for proteome analysis, cell type-specific drug delivery, and modulation of gene expression in vivo.  Based on this we will generate systems-level mechanistic and cell-type resolved models of tissue plasticity in mice. These models will be used to deconstruct data from complex clinical samples to obtain mechanistic insight into human adipose and hepatic tissue plasticity in during develop and regression of obesity.

Centre for Privacy Studies (PRIVACY)
Center leader:Professor Mette Birkedal Bruun
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2017 - 2023
Funding in total:50 mil. DKK
Year:9th Application round

PRIVACY aims to launch privacy studies as a new re­search field. The goal is to develop

  • systematized historical knowledge of dynamics that shape, induce or curb privacy in society,
  • an interdisciplinary method fit to grasp such dy­namics and
  • an international research environment that specializes in historical research, but is also equipped to incite a much broader investigation of privacy.

Privacy concerns the relationship between individual and society. The Western world harbours a wide-spread conviction that privacy may threaten society, but is at the same time vital for human existence: that too much privacy may threaten society while too little may ruin the individual. This double notion of privacy emerges in the period 1500­–1800. PRIVACY aims to identify early modern factors that shape and are shaped by this double notion of privacy, e.g.  religious conflict, the role of home and family, the need to exchange and store information as well as the definition of freedom and con­straints regarding prop­erty, belief, sexual conduct and bodily habits.

Architecture, legislation, religious cultures and societal ideas are primary domains in the early modern understanding of privacy as a threat and a quality. We will examine the facets of privacy by means of a site-based analysis and an integrated interdisciplinary approach that brings together church history, architectural history, legal history and the history of ideas and focuses on particular locations in a particular period. With an understanding of the factors that influence the definition of the private sphere and its boundaries under different historical conditions we lay the foundation for a nuanced view of the complex societal conditions that affect current notions of privacy.

Center for Electromicrobiology (CEM)
Center leader:Professor Lars Peter Nielsen
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2017 - 2023
Funding in total:56 mil. DKK
Year:9th Application round

CEM will investigate cable bacteria, a newly discovered form of life where each individual consists of thousands of cells in centimeter-long chains within a common envelope with electric wires. This enables the bacteria to use electric currents for combustion of food in oxygen-free environments, as long as just the cells in one end are in contact with free oxygen. All other known organisms need to have food and oxygen delivered to every single cell. Cable bacteria flourish at the bottom of the sea, lakes, and rivers and commonly in large amounts. Numerous other types of bacteria are attracted by cable bacteria and seem to exploit their electric shortcut to oxygen. The aim of CEM is to unravel how this unique form of life functions and the three overarching questions are

  • What molecular structures and mechanisms explain the cable bacteria’s exceptionally effective electric wires made from biological material?
  • How does an organism handle its metabolism, when the conversion of food and oxygen is allocated to different cells?
  • How are other bacteria and cable bacteria influencing one another?

To answer these questions methods from microbiology, molecular biology, electrochemistry, and nanoscience will be combined and developed. Cable bacteria are a prominent example of a probably widespread phenomenon, as more and more microbial processes in nature appears to be mediated by electric currents between cells and between cells and minerals. CEM will contribute to and exploit the ongoing, general expansion of electromicrobiology.

Centre for Cellular Signal Patterns (CellPAT)
Center leader:Professor Jørgen Kjems
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2017 - 2023
Funding in total:61 mil. DKK
Year:9th Application round

The centre will focus in particular on how our immune cells can recognise the difference between external dangers and ourselves, and why this mechanism sometimes goes wrong and gives rise to autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, sclerosis and diabetes.

The centre will also study the way macromolecules are transported through biological barriers in the body, such as the blood-brain barrier and cell membranes. This knowledge will form the basis for developing more targeted and effective drugs with fewer side effects. In addition, the centre will study which signals the stem cells need to receive in order to develop into specific types of tissue in the body. This knowledge will create an opportunity to use stem cells to re-establish tissue in the body when the old cells are destroyed by a poor lifestyle, disease or injury. It is thought that the method will eventually be used to regenerate human organs.

Center for Economic Behavior and Inequality (CEBI)
Center leader:Professor Claus Thustrup Kreiner
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2017 - 2023
Funding in total:57 mil. DKK
Year:9th Application round

Inequality across people in income, wealth and many other outcomes arises from differences in circumstances and differences in behavior. Much economic research on the causes of inequality focuses on circumstances. CEBI focuses on the role of individual behavior in generating unequal outcomes.  Understanding the role of behavior is fundamental for obtaining a better understanding of the sources of inequality, how policy affects inequality, and how circumstances and behavior interact to reduce or produce inequality.

The research agenda requires a comprehensive collection of data and exploits the globally unique Danish data research infrastructure. It enables the researchers to study a large number of choices and outcomes of individuals, using administrative register data covering the entire population over a period of more than thirty years, and to combine it with information about their behavioral characteristics obtained from large-scale controlled experiments and large-scale surveys.

As an example, a hypothesis from economic theory is that patient people save more and become more wealthy than impatient people. To test this hypothesis, the researchers use controlled experiments to elicit the degree of patience and combine this data with administrative data providing information on real-life wealth in order to analyze whether more patient people are more wealthy.

Center for Proteins in Memory (PROMEMO)
Center leader:Professor Anders Nykjær
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2017 - 2023
Funding in total:62 mil. DKK
Year:9th Application round

PROMEMO – Center for Proteins in Memory

Memory is probably the single most important brain process. It defines our personality, gives us the sense of individuality and determines our actions. Yet memory also fails us: we forget birthdays or the name of someone we met the day before. By contrast, there are incidents that we recall with clarity even decades later. For instance, we remember 9-11, but surprisingly we also recall details such as where we were that day and what we were doing, while we do not from September 11 in other years. It is now appreciated that synthesis of new proteins in the synapses while a memory is being formed is critical for making the memory last, a process that is reinforced by emotional input, but what the proteins entail and how they act remains poorly understood.

PROMEMO aims to identify and understand the function of memory associated proteins that determines the persistence of a memory. To reach this aim, we will combine cutting-edge techniques in proteomics, complex structural biology, optogenetic memory engineering of tailored mouse models, electrophysiology of synaptic memory function, and high-resolution brain imaging in behaving animals.

We expect our studies will help explaining fundamental traits of cognition, emotion, and learning. In a longer perspective, understanding memory-associated proteins may help identifying molecular targets for memory-associated disorders such as anxiety, depression, and dementia.

Centre for Personalised Medicine Managing Infectious Complications in Immune Deficiency (PERSIMUNE)
Center leader:Professor Jens Lundgren
Institution:Rigshospitalet
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:60.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

The multidisciplinary centre at Rigshospitalet works from the hypothesis that across patient with impaired immune function, there is a common pattern of un-discovered risk factors explaining the variation in risk of infectious complications. Initially we aim at understanding
the mechanisms explaining the variation in risk using a diverse set of methodologies, including pattern recognition from big data from routine care, studies of host and microbial genetics, imaging, and immunological characterization. The discovery phase will likely identify novel mechanisms of host defence, which will be used to characterize groups of immunocompromised patients and identify clusters of factors associated with comparable types of infectious complications.
From this, we will formulate a series of immunodeficiency indices encapsulating the variation in risk for of infectious complications. The indices will be validated and used to personalise interventions aimed at reducing infectious complications.

Center for Autophagy, Recycling and Disease (CARD)
Center leader:Head of Research, Professor Marja Jäättelä
Institution:The Danish Cancer Society
Funding period:2015 - 2020
Funding in total:50.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

Cellular homeostasis is governed by integrated activities of energy-supplying organelles, macromoleculeproducing factories and recycling pathways. As in our modern society, also in our cells, power supply, activity and waste disposal need to be kept in equilibrium and
respond to immediate internal and external demands.
Autophagy, a process of self-eating, is a key actor in this process. It ensures rapid removal of toxic materials as well as damaged or superfluous macromolecules and organelles through lysosomal degradation and recycling, thereby providing means for waste disposal
and molecules for energy production and renovation.
It also participates in essential cell-fate decisions concerning survival, malignant transformation and differentiation. CARD will combine complementary expertise at the Danish Cancer Society Research Center to elucidate the orchestration of cellular energy balance, damage control, recycling and autophagy with focus on autophagy regulating pathways and their crosstalk with other cellular processes.

Center for Hyperpolarization In Magnetic Resonance (HYPERMAG)
Center leader:Principal Scientist, Adj. Professor Jan Henrik Ardenkjær-Larsen
Institution:Technical University of Denmark
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:55.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

There is a tremendous potential to improve the sensitivity of Magnetic Resonance (MR) by hyperpolarization with broad scientific and commercial applications. Hyperpolarized MR is able to provide quantitative and specific information about chemical and biological processes on a sub-second timescale in a complex molecular background in vivo and in vitro. Hyperpolarization is achieved by Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (DNP), and allows us to enhance the MR signal by more than 10,000-fold and thereby enable experiments that would otherwise be impractical or even impossible.

One of the most compelling applications is in medical imaging, where it opens a window into cellular metabolism and provides a tool to monitor disease progression and response to treatment. Hyperpolari¬zation by DNP raises many fundamental questions, and a better theoretical description is needed. The aim of the Center of Excellence is to address these questions.

Center for Silicon Photonics For Optical Communications (SPOC)
Center leader:Professor Leif Katsuo Oxenløwe
Institution:Technical University of Denmark
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:59.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

This research centre addresses the optical communication infrastructures of the future. In an interdisciplinary approach, relying on physics, nonlinear optics, photonic communication technologies, information theory and advanced coding, we aim to find solutions to the major challenges of communication systems—the energy consumption and potential capacity.
We will explore optical signal processing in photonic wires for orders of magnitude improvements in bandwidth and energy efficiency, and conduct fundamental research on optical silicon chips and integration technologies addressing ultimate-capacity optical communications. We will explore spatially distributed data transmission for orders of magnitude higher data densities. We will explore information and coding theory for optimum spectral-efficiency. We will explore frequency comb generation for light sources and for unprecedented ultra-precise optical clocks and frequency references, and we will explore future quantum communication channels with impenetrable security.

Center for Intelligent Oral Drug Delivery Using Nano And Microfabricated Containers (IDUN)
Center leader:Professor Anja Boisen
Institution:Technical University of Denmark
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:56.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

Oral drug delivery is the preferred route of administra¬tion due to its minimal invasive nature and convenience for the patients. However, it has key challenges and limitations: (i) Many potent drugs like proteins and peptides (e.g. insulin) cannot survive the passage through the gastrointestinal tract. (ii) Release kinetics need to be controlled (time, location, amount). (iii) A large part of newly discovered drugs, such as HIV compounds, has low solubility and/or permeability. (iv) Many drug treatments require combined or simultaneous release of several compounds. (v) Amorphous drugs have enhanced solubility and dissolution rate.
However, long-term stability is a challenge since the drugs recrystallize. The goal of IDUN is to explore micrometer-sized containers for oral drug delivery. The containers will act as small toolboxes where the interior can be designed with sub-compartments and a variety of bioactive agents (tools) will be loaded de¬pending on the application. We will use the containers to: protect potentially labile active pharmaceutical ingredients, control release kinetics, enable adhesion to the intestinal mucosa, realize unidirectional release, facilitate combined or sequential release of several drugs, and stabilize drugs in their amorphous form.

Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP)
Center leader:Professor, Dr. Med Thomas Graven-Nielsen
Institution:Aalborg University
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:60.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

When an injury results in acute pain, the nervous system undergoes an adaptive neuroplastic response resulting in an increase in sensitivity. After some time, the pain neuroplasticity is normalized as the injury heals. In some cases, such neuroplastic processes fail to normalize during convalescence, and acute pain develops into chronic pain with hypersensitivity. The continuing pain after injury resolution is considered due to maladaptive pain neuroplasticity. In contrast, advantageous neuroplasticity permits the nervous system to cope with challenges such as maladaptive pain neuroplasticity to help returning to a pain-free state.
The Center will apply a biomedical engineering approach where new advanced pain provocation and probing platforms will be discovered and applied to reveal novel aspects of the human pain neuroplasticity. This will lead to experimental human models describing the unknown dynamic properties of pain neuroplasticity in humans. These models will be exploited to identify methods for promoting advantageous neuroplasticity in the human pain system.

Center for Bacterial Stress Response and Persistence (BASP)
Center leader:Professor Kenn Gerdes
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:50.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

All bacteria, including major pathogens such as TB, MRSA, Salmonella, etc, form persistent forms with low frequency that can survive antibiotic treatment. In healthy individuals, the immune system eradicates these rare bacteria. However, in debilitated or elderly individuals, such surviving bacteria can generate the basis for chronic or relapsing infections.
We discovered that the intracellular regulatory mole¬cule, (p)ppGpp, present in almost all bacteria, is the master regulator of the persistence phenomenon. The cellular level of (p)ppGpp is high in low fractions of growing bacterial populations (see the Figure) and these bacteria are resistant to multiple antibiotics and thus survive during chemotherapy. In the DNRF and Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Bacterial Stress Response and Persistence (BASP) at the Dept. of Biology, University of Copenhagen, we will study how bacteria control their levels of (p)ppGpp and how it allows them to survive many different types of environmental stresses, including antibiotics.

Center for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)
Center leader:Professor MSO Rubina Raja
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:65.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

Becoming urban is widely recognized as one of the great turning points of history. The innovations, cultural entanglements and environmental exchanges afforded by urbanism led to social and material complexity, which make up the core of today’s civilization. The complex stratigraphies of urban archaeology form a uniquely rich archive of this process. This evidence – the single most data-rich material archive of anthropogenic change in the last five millennia – remains vastly underexploited. The Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) will develop research that will offer comparison of convergent developments and determine how, and to what extent, past urban networks catalysed societal and environmental expansions and crises, potentially on a global scale. UrbNet pioneers a “High Definition” view of urban dynamics and constructs a leading research body, integrating scientific techniques with contextual archaeological and historical approaches. It aims to unleash new forms of data that are able to significantly test, challenge and revise narratives of particular urban sites as well as fundamental assumptions about trajectories, dynamics, and causal conditions of urbanization in the era of globally interlocking pre-industrial civilizations.

Carbon Dioxide Activation Center (CADIAC)
Center leader:Professor Troels Skrydstrup
Institution:Aarhus Universitet
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:60.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

The objective of the Carbon Dioxide Activation Center (CADIAC) is to unveil fundamentally new science for the activation of CO2, thereby providing smart sus¬tainable solutions for the exploitation of this molecule as a valuable C1-feedstock to high-value chemicals of industrial importance. Only through an international and multi-disciplinary effort can this ambitious objective be achieved, combining expertise from four research teams in catalysis, materials chemistry, surface chem¬istry and electrochemistry. We will generate materials not only displaying catalytic activity with high selec¬tivity and efficiency properties for CO2 conversion, but also materials that can absorb CO2, thus assuring a sufficiently high “concentration” of CO2 close to the catalyst. By merging the worlds of homogeneous catalysis with surface and materials science, we will be able to identify more advanced systems, which through optimized and controlled catalysis, transport processes and product formation, are able to deliver the desired high-value products in a sustainable man¬ner. It is our goal to change the perception of CO2 as a problematic combustion product to a valuable re-source, which is essential for creating an energy and resource efficient society with a small carbon footprint.

Center for Music In The Brain (MIB)
Center leader:Professor Peter Vuust
Institution:Aarhus University, Royal Academy of Music Aarhus/Aalborg
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:52.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

The Danish National Research Foundation’s Center for Music In the Brain (MIB) is an interdisciplinary research center aiming at addressing the dual questions of how music is processed in the brain and how this can inform our understanding of fundamental principles behind brain processing in general. The center employs state-of-the-art scanning methods (MR, fMRI, MEG, EEG, PET) and behavioral measures.
The MIB center is a collaboration between Aarhus University (AU) and The Royal Academy of Music (RAMA) placed at AU. The center is based on four strands of research in music and the brain: Perception, Action, Emotion and Learning. With a strong foundation in music practice and theory at the highest level, and a focus on clinical application of music, MIB combines neuroscien¬tific, musicological and psychological research in music perception, action, emotion and learning, with the potential to test the most prominent theories of brain function, and to influence the way we play, teach, use, and listen to music.

Center for Stem Cell Decision Making (STEMPHYS)
Center leader:Professor Lene Broeng Oddershede
Institution:The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:60.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

With the potential to produce specialized cells, stem cells are the holy grail of regenerative medicine; however, their exploitation is limited by an incomplete understanding of the mechanisms controlling their differentiation. Through interdisciplinary projects the StemPhys center joins forces of stem cell biology and theoretical and experimental physics to significantly progress our understanding of stem cell commitment. This endeavour will start a new era within quantitative stem cell biology and also has the potential to produce genuine medical advances. StemPhys combines unique stem cell lines with expertise in modelling, bio-imaging, and mechanical manipulation of living matter. Long-term goals include the development of methods to control and possibly reverse differentiation of stem cells. Our research on pancreatic progenitors, with the capacity to generate beta cells producing insulin, could produce new prospects for stem-cell based treatment of diabetes, and our work on liver progeni¬tors could enhance drug development by providing hepatocytes for drug screening.

Center for Chromosome Stability (CCS)
Center leader:Professor Ian D. Hickson
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2015 - 2021
Funding in total:65.0 mil. DKK
Year:8th Application round

The maintenance of chromosome stability is of paramount importance for the successful propagation of all species. A breakdown in chromosome mainte¬nance is an underlying feature of several debilitating disorders in humans ranging from birth defects and some forms of neurodegeneration to cancer. In the Center for Chromosome Stability, we investigate the molecular causes and consequences of defects in chromosome maintenance. We have a particular emphasis on regions of the human genome that are intrinsically unstable due to their atypical structure disrupting successive rounds of DNA replication. We combine molecular/cell biological techniques with analysis of model organisms such as yeast and mice to define precisely how these ubiquitous ‘enemies within’ the genome undermine the integrity of chromosomes, and how their instability is normally counteracted. Our ultimate aim is to develop new preventative or therapeutic strategies for combating human diseases associated with chromosomal instability.

Center for Dynamic Molecular Interactions (DynaMo)
Center leader:Professor Barbara Ann Halkier
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2012 - 2017
Funding in total:49.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

The Center investigates dynamic processes at the molecular level in multicellular organisms and aims to uncover universal principles behind them.

Key questions essential to DynaMo are

  • to understand how cellular components, within the crowded cellular milieu, with high coordination and precision are assembled in supramolecular complexes undertaking specific tasks, such as RNA and metabolite-mediated regulation.
  • to understand how cellular components are able to ‘read’ the signposts of the organism and find their way to the final destination.

As model system DynaMo uses the plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) and its defense metabolites, glucosinolates; a unique systems biology model given its extensive bioinformatic and genomic tools. Ultimately, the Center expects to understand how higher order of structure in biology is obtained which enables a multicellular organism to function, and to sense and respond to the environment.

Center for Medieval Literature (CML)
Center leader:Professor Lars Boje Mortensen
Institution:University of Southern Denmark
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:36.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

CML aims to establish a cross-disciplinary theoretical framework for the study of medieval literature from a fully European perspective. To this day, medieval texts are largely studied within the framework defined by 19th romanticism: divided into research disciplines, theoretical positions and nationalizing canons which marginalize common European features and which impose a modern concept of literature. Methodologically, CML will promote comparisons between literatures from all of Europe – including texts written in the supra-national “holy” languages Latin, Greek, Arabic and Hebrew. With the emphasis on comparison and methodological development, CML will challenge modern literary theory’s neglect of textual production and understanding before the advent of print. Focus on the social universe of medieval texts, rather than their significance as political documents or the origins of national literatures, will shape CML’s integrated international and interdisciplinary approaches to literary cultures.

Center for Vitamins and Vaccines (CVIVA)
Center leader:Senior researcher Christine Stabell Benn
Institution:National Institute for Health Data and Disease Control
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:58.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

Center for Vitamins and Vaccines (CVIVA) aims to document that vaccines and vitamins affect the immune system in a much more general way than previously thought. Studies conducted in Guinea-Bissau and other low-income countries with high pressure of infections have shown that measles vaccine and BCG reduce the risk of dying, not just from measles and tuberculosis, but also from other infectious diseases. However, some vaccines may have negative effects on the immune system and vitamins may amplify both positive and negative effects. We have named these effects “non-specific effects”. The non-specific effects are often different for boys and girls. The findings indicate that vaccines may have much greater impact on child mortality, and unfold a whole new understanding of the immune system; like the brain the immune system is affected by early experiences and transfers these experiences to other challenges. The findings also suggest that we may have to treat boys and girls differently to give them equal opportunities.

Copenhagen Center for Glycomics (CCG)
Center leader:Professor Henrik Clausen
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2012 - 2017
Funding in total:62.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

Copenhagen Center for Glycomics (CCG) explores the saccharide chains – complex carbohydrates – that cover the surface of our proteins and cells. Complex carbohydrates of cells – the glycome – are often regarded as the third language of life after the genome and the proteome. Defects in the glycome are a major cause of hereditary diseases. The glycome is produced by over 200 enzymes and mutations in their genes lead to defects in the glycome. The center explores and maps these genes with new enzymatic technologies to turn on and off genes and identify causes of disease. Complex carbohydrates are essential for fundamental cellular processes, and changes in the glycome are involved in e.g. metabolic diseases and cancers. We develop new methods to detect mutations and the changes these infer the glycome and cellular processes. Insight into the glycome may lead to new diagnostic tools and better-targeted drugs and vaccines.

Stellar Astrophysics Centre (SAC)
Center leader:Professor Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:55.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

The Centre investigates stars and planets orbiting them, based on observations and theoretical models. Extensive observations are obtained from the NASA Kepler satellite, and further exquisite data will result from the Danish-led SONG network of telescopes that is being established. The purpose is to understand the structure and evolution of stars and planetary systems, and to investigate the conditions for possible life on the surface of the planets. The stellar properties are characterized on the basis of observations of ‘star quakes’, i.e., oscillations detected in the stellar luminosity or the motion of the stellar surface. These observations are combined with detailed theoretical models of stellar evolution. Planetary systems outside the solar system can be studied by measuring the radial velocity or using the so-called transit technique, observing the reduction in the light from a star when a planet passes in front of it. Other observations can be used to characterize the planetary atmospheres. Based on this one can also simulate in the laboratory the conditions for life on the planets. In addition to scientists from Aarhus University the Centre involves 5 internationally leading groups with complementary expertise.

Center for International Courts (iCourts)
Center leader:Professor Mikael Rask Madsen
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:42.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

iCourts explores the proliferation of international courts over the last decades and its causes and consequences. The center is particularly focused on the role of international courts in a globalizing legal order and their impact on politics and society. What can be observed is a striking trend towards establishing international courts in major areas of human and political life: the economy, in terms of global trade regulation; freedom, in terms of international human rights; and punishment, in terms of international criminal law. And all enforced by specialized international courts. These are areas of regulation once essentially associated with the state and national policy. Now, they are increasingly the subject of global regulation and the jurisdiction of an ever growing number of international courts. iCourts’ research will be focused on these critical questions of current – and future – international law and society.

Center for Geomicrobiology
Center leader:Professor Bo Barker Jørgensen
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2012 - 2017
Funding in total:58.1 mil. kr.
Year:7th Application round

The Center for Geomicrobiology studies the interactions between microorganisms and geochemical processes in Earth’s largest ecosystem – the deep biosphere. A large fraction of our planet’s microorganisms live deep down in the sea bed, a dark world buried thousands or millions of years ago. Over geological time, the collective activity of these microorganisms has a major impact on the chemistry of the oceans and the climate on Earth.

The deep biosphere is however an unexplored world where almost all organisms remain unknown and are only identified by genetic signatures. It is also a world with an extremely low energy supply, where life develops in slow motion and the generation times of individual microorganisms span hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This life is therefore essentially different from life in the surface world. The Center for Geomicrobiology develops new single-cell methods to analyze the metabolism and genetic diversity of the microorganisms and to understand their function in the global element cycles and how life may subsists under extreme energy limitation.

Center for Nanostructured Graphene (CNG)
Center leader:Professor Antti-Pekka Jauho
Institution:Technical University of Denmark
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:54.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

Graphene – a two-dimensional layer of carbon atoms in a hexagonal pattern – has a combination of unique properties: it conducts electricity like a good metal but is nevertheless transparent; it is hard as a diamond and stronger than steel, and, finally, even the smallest atoms cannot penetrate through it. Graphene is an ideal platform for numerous investigations in basic science. In addition to the scientific interest these, properties imply a huge potential for future applications, such as nanoelectronics, ultrasensitive sensors, quantum information technology, optics and nanobiotechnology. In order to fully exploit these ideas it is necessary to nanostructure graphene, e.g. by fabricating regular nanoscale perforations. Using these structures one can attain a better control of electrical and thermal currents, as well as optical and chemical properties. CNG’s goal is to bring these theoretical concepts into reality: we intend to fabricate these structures, analyze their properties with different experimental techniques, and using detailed theoretical modeling reach a thorough physical understanding of their properties.

The Center’s long term perspective is to create a new generation of components whose functionality is based on advanced graphene technology. In parallel we will educate a new generation of scientists and engineers with a thorough understanding of this cross-disciplinary research area, to the benefit of our future society. We have dreams of revolutionary applications such as parallelized DNA sequencing or solid-state implementations of qubits.

Center for Financial Frictions (FRIC)
Center leader:Professor David Lando
Institution:Copenhagen Business School
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:48.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

Financial frictions are costs or impediments to financial transactions due to, for example, varying ease by which financial assets are traded (their liquidity), transactions costs, borrowing constraints, credit risk, capital requirements for financial institutions, and asymmetric information among market participants. The center will analyze theoretically and empirically the impact of financial frictions on the prices of financial assets, on economic development and on the design and regulation of financial markets.

Center for Quantum Devices (QDev)
Center leader:Professor Charles Marcus
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:64.4 mio. DKK
Year:7th Application round

The Center for Quantum Devices studies how to create, control, measure, and protect quantum coherence and entanglement in solid-state electronic devices.

The miniaturization and scaling of modern electronics, yielding billions of transistors on a chip, has a quantum analog in which quantum states of transistors are made to interact, and hence become entangled, with the specificity of a computer algorithm.

The general power of such a device to communicate, compute, measure, and simulate physical and chemical systems is unknown. From known examples where entanglement serves as a resource, one can expect rich and surprising phenomena to emerge from such a device, reflecting the large space of quantum states compared to the number of classical states.

Once entanglement is brought under control and becomes a resource, the technological harvest has the potential to revolutionize communication, information processing, and simulation of quantum mechanical systems from novel superconducting materials to biomolecules.

Center for Permafrost (CENPERM)
Center leader:Professor Bo Elberling
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2012 - 2018
Funding in total:60.0 mil. DKK
Year:7th Application round

In large areas of the Arctic permafrost is thawing due to global warming. This affects the interactions between microorganisms, plants and the soil environment. Center for Permafrost (CENPERM) at Copenhagen University focuses on permafrost thawing in Greenland.

19 million km2 of the Arctic are covered with permafrost; soil frozen for at least two consecutive years. Permafrost stores almost half of all global soil carbon and thawing will affect microbial decomposition of the enormous amounts of organic matter. During decomposition carbon dioxide and methane among other gasses are released to the atmosphere, potentially increasing global warming.

CENPERM takes a multidisciplinary approach and investigates the biological, geographical and physical effects of permafrost thawing in Greenland – in the short and the long term. Our investigations combine field experiments in Greenland under extreme conditions with experiments under controlled conditions in the laboratory, and will provide new insight into the complex interactions between microorganisms, plants and soil when permafrost thaws.

Centre for Star and Planet Formation (StarPlan)
Center leader:Professor Martin Bizzarro
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2009 - 2019
Funding in total:82.4 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

Background
As far as we know, our solar system is unique. It could, in principle, be the only planetary system in the universe to harbor life. As such, attempting to reconstruct its history is one of the most fundamental pursuits in the natural sciences. But the breadth of expertise required to develop a unified model of solar system formation is not available within any individual field of universe science. A complete understanding of solar system formation can only be achieved through synergistic interactions between the fields cosmochemistry, astrophysics and astronomy.
Research activities
The goal of the center is to provide observational and theoretical constraints that will help unravel the early history of our solar system. The hope is to understand the circumstances that allowed for the formation of the terrestrial planets in our solar system, including the preservation of water worlds like Earth, where life has been thriving for nearly 4 billion years. The objectives will be achieved by integrating high-precision isotope studies of meteorites with stellar evolution theory, astrophysical models and astronomical observations.

Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (CMEG)
Center leader:Rahbek, Carsten
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2010 - 2019
Funding in total:111.0 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate seeks to identify, describe and explain temporal and spatial patterns in the biological variation. The center integrates terrestrial and marine research in a cross-disciplinary research program addressing fundamental questions on the origin, maintenance, conservation and future of life and biological diversity on Earth.

Research at the center focuses on: 

  • How to explain the large-scale spatial distribution of biological diversity on Earth from first principles of evolution, ecology and historical contingency
  • How does climate as a principal factor affect distribution of life on Earth in the past, today and in the future (given landuse- and climate change)
  • How species-specific, high quality data and through knowledge about the evolution, natural history and biology of species can advance our in-depth understanding about life and function of organisms on Earth
  • How evolutionary and ecographical principles, data and knowledge can be used to develop robust, science-based strategies for management of biological diversity today and in the future
Centre for Quantum Geometry of Moduli Spaces (QGM)
Center leader:Professor Jørgen Ellegaard Andersen
Institution:University of Aarhus
Funding period:2009 - 2019
Funding in total:89.2 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

QGM has an exhaustive focus on the mathematical models for quantum field theories. The ambition is to create a mathematical ground for some of the physicist’s quantum field theories – and thereby reach a step deeper into the understanding of the universe.

Albeit the earth will not be destroyed when the particle accelerator at CERN begins producing proton beams, there is no precise mathematical definition of the particle physics standard model which predicts the experimental results. By utilizing quantum geometry of various moduli spaces QGM studies the properties of similar theories which has a complete and precise mathematical definition.

The pivotal aspect of the researchers work is precisely quantum geometry based on quantifications from geometrical methods, with moduli spaces as the geometrical key objects. The studies of three-dimensional spaces have moreover applications in correlation with the research in protein folding within the field of biology.

Center for Materials Crystallography (CMC)
Center leader:Professor Bo Brummerstedt Iversen
Institution:University of Aarhus
Funding period:2010 - 2019
Funding in total:105.1 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

Research at the Center for Materials Crystallography aims at increasing the understanding of the molecular interactions that govern the structure of crystalline materials, and thereby to understand their physical and chemical properties laws of nature that are responsible for arranging the basic atomic structure of solid materials. For example, there will be a focus on the structure of magnetic crystals irradiated with UV light, so-called photo-excited structures, with a view to developing new materials for storing data. Another project is concerned with making “live” recordings of the way nanocrystals are formed and grow out of a chemical reaction. This will aid the design of functional nanomaterials for such things as solar cells, the batteries of the future, thermoelectric materials, fuel cells and catalysts. The scientists also hope to improve our understanding of the way molecules interact when they spontaneously form organised structures – the so-called self-assembly phenomenon. And much more.

Centre for Symmetry and Deformation (SYM)
Center leader:Professor Jesper Grodal
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2010 - 2019
Funding in total:90.1 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

The goal of the Centre for Symmetry and Deformation is to understand the mathematics behind symmetry and deformation.

Symmetry is one of the most fundamental notions in nature: In physics it gives rise to conservation laws, in chemistry it determines the structure of molecules, and in evolutionary biology, as well as other aspects of life, it often underlies the notion of “beauty”.

The symmetries of a geometric object are however not stable under deformation: Whereas a perfectly round sphere has all rotational and reflectional symmetries, deforming the sphere slightly destroys these symmetries.

The centre aims to reconcile this, combining the mathematical disciplines of group theory and homotopy theory, including non-commutative theory, in a novel way, to study symmetry deformation-invariantly.

The Centre for Symmetry and Deformation is based at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, and is headed by Professor Jesper Grodal.

Center for Particle Physics – DISCOVERY
Center leader:Associate Professor Peter H. Hansen
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2010-2019
Funding in total:80.0 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

The Discovery center for particle physics explores fundamental questions in particle physics and cosmology, such as:

  • How was the universe created (which inflation scenario played out in the first split second? What happened during the quark-gluon plasma era?)
  • What is the source of the mass spectrum of fundamental particles of matter and forces?
  • How do we reconcile particle physics with the existence of dark matter?

The center is via its members “shareholder” in two new international instruments which will provide extraordinary insights into these questions. These are ESAs PLANCK satellite and CERNs LHC accelerator.

The center is a joint venture of the experimental and theoretical particle physics groups at the Niels Bohr Institute.

Center on Autobiographical Memory Research (CON AMORE)
Center leader:Professor Dorthe Berntsen
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2010 - 2019
Funding in total:84.0 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

Center On Autobiographical Memory Research – CON AMORE – is hosted by the Department of Psychology, Aarhus University and directed by Professor Dorthe Berntsen.
Autobiographical memory is the ability to remember events from the personal past and imagine possible events in the personal future.
The aim is to study autobiographical memory from a biological to a cultural level, from infants to old people, in healthy people as well as in clinical disorders.
Key projects are:

  • The examination of voluntary and involuntary autobiographical memory
  • The study of cultural-cognitive structures in the organization of subjective time
  • The study of the development of autobiographical memory in infancy and childhood, in relation to language development and cultural schemata for time
  • The study of dysfunctional effects of autobiographical memory in prominent clinical disorders, notably involuntary remembering of stressful events in PTSD, and impaired autobiographical memory in traumatic brain injury
Center for GeoGenetics
Center leader:Professor Eske Willerslev
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2009 - 2019
Funding in total:100.4 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round

Ancient DNA research has progressed from the retrieval of short fragments of DNA from bones to large-scale studies of ancient populations, past ecosystems and even whole nuclear genomic sequences. The Center for Geogenetics has positioned itself in the technological forefront of all this. By sequencing the Saqqaq genome AGE were the first to map the complete nuclear genome from an ancient human.

Through a multidisciplinary team, novel methodologies and the access to highly unique specimens and sampling sites, the center intend to re-address some of the most highly debated scientific topics in the past decades – carefully chosen in a strong belief, that ancient DNA research can provide fundamentally new insight. Or even shift current paradigms. The topics concern the early peopling of the Americas, Late Quaternary megafauna extinctions, human migrations into the Arctic northern extremes as well as climate and environmental changes in the polar regions.

Centre for Particle Physics & Origin Mass CP3 – Origins
Center leader:Professor Francesco Sannino
Institution:University of Southern Denmark
Funding period:2009-2019
Funding in total:80.0 mil. DKK
Year:6th Application round
The overall goal is to use theoretical expertise and supercomputers to exploit experimental results to positively contribute to the next big leap in particle physics: “Uncovering the Origin of Mass of all elementary particles”. The center will also contribute in other equally relevant quests: the understanding of the phase diagram of strongly interacting theories and the origin of bright and dark matter in the universe.
The center is designed to cover the strategic areas of research orbiting around the “Origin of Mass” problem which is the “trait d’union” among them:
  • Electroweak Symmetry Breaking
  • Dark Matter
  • Flavour and CP Physics
  • Strong Interactions
Centre for Membrane Pumps in Cells and Disease (PUMPKIN)
Center leader:Professor Poul Nissen
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2007 - 2017
Funding in total:106.2 mil. DKK
Year:5th Application round

The Centre for Membrane Pumps in Cells and Disease (PUMPKIN) focuses on the structure and function of P-type ATPases – a large family of membrane pumps found in all forms of life. The center builds on a long-standing research tradition following the initial findings and break-through studies on the sodium-potassium pump by Nobel laureate Jens Chr. Skou.

PUMPKIN integrates several approaches ranging from molecular to physiological studies – structure-function studies of pumps lead to new ideas of their role in systems biology and physiology, while disease-oriented research inquires the pathophysiology of ion pumps at a molecular level. A major breakthrough was obtained in December 2007 with three parallel publications and a cover feature in the journal Nature on structure and function of the sodium-potassium pump, the calcium pump, and the proton pump.

Entrepeneurship derived from PUMPKIN research has lead to the succesful drug discovery start-up Pcovery (www.pcovery.com). Outreach activities include popular science communication, arts, and school teaching.

Center for Massive Data Algorithmics (MADALGO)
Center leader:Professor Lars Arge
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2007 - 2017
Funding in total:72.5 mil. DKK
Year:5th Application round

Computers pervade all parts of human activity and our society has become very “data driven”. We are increasingly expecting to be able to access and process massive datasets anywhere at any time, and scientific and commercial applications are increasingly processing massive amounts of data. However, the increasing dataset sizes have also exposed inadequacies of existing software – often available data is not fully utilized simply because it cannot be processed fast enough. One reason for this is that the problem solving methods – the algorithms – implemented in the software are not adequate in modern massive data applications. One main problem is that traditional algorithms theory does not adequately model modern diverse computing devises. The goal of MADALGO is to remedy this situation by advancing fundamental algorithms theory in the area of massive data processing, while also being a catalyst for multidisciplinary collaboration on commercial and scientific massive dataset problems.

Centre for Ice and Climate
Center leader:Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen
Institution:University of Copenhagen
Funding period:2007 - 2017
Funding in total:115.9 mil. DKK
Year:5th Application round

The build-up of greenhouse gases is dramatically changing Earth’s climate. It is intensively debated whether projected increases in global temperatures will melt the Greenland ice sheet and increase sea level by several meters. There is an urgent need to better understand past climate and improve future climate projections.

Ice cores provide a comprehensive history of climate with high resolution and they document the full dynamics of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-ice system. The vision of the center is to contribute to an improved understanding of the present and past warm interglacial periods by studying ice cores, and developing models to explain observations and predict the ice sheet response to climate change.

The center lead an international effort in cutting-edge climate research, coordinate the drilling of a new deep ice core in Greenland, and make a significant contribution understand the evolution of the Greenland ice sheet and the related sea level rise.

Centre for DNA Nanotechnology (CDNA)
Center leader:Professor Kurt Gothelf Vesterager
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2007 - 2017
Funding in total:94.5 mil. DKK
Year:5th Application round

Centre for DNA Nanoteknology (CDNA) aims at solving one of the greatest challenges in nanotechnology: to construct devices with nano-scale building blocks. Researchers at CDNA are trying to solve this problem by using Nature’s information molecule, DNA, to assemble nano-scale building blocks. DNA is programmable, and by attaching DNA to the building blocks, they are encoded to self-assemble into the desired structure.

The center studies both fundamental aspects of self-assembly (Science 2008) and self-assembly of very complex systems with up to 500,000 atoms. By use of the so-called DNA origami technique, a DNA box with a controllable lid was assembled (Nature 2009), and it has also been demonstrated that DNA origami can be used to control and image chemical reactions of single molecules (Nature Nanotechnology 2010). The center is interdisciplinary with researchers from chemistry, molecular biology and physics at iNANO, Aarhus University, and it also involves two research groups from USA.

Centre for Carbohydrate Recognition and Signaling (CARB)
Center leader:Professor Jens Stougaard
Institution:Aarhus University
Funding period:2007 - 2017
Funding in total:90.5 mil. DKK
Year:5th Application round

The center is located at Aarhus University and comprises a number of research groups at Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen and Leiden University The Netherlands and University of Otago New Zealand. It is the aim and ambition of the center to understand interactions between cells and organisms by investigating the role of polysaccharides exposed on cell surfaces and secreted polysaccharide signal molecules. The interdisciplinary research activities focus on three central themes: a) determination of the structural requirements for recognition of complex polysaccharides and the role of ligand-receptor interactions. b) Identification of novel carbohydrate signals and the use bioinformatics to predict ligand binding-site recognition. c) Characterisation of downstream events involved in defence or symbiosis at both cellular and subcellular levels. Legume plants, together with its microsymbionts as well as zebrafish and its pathogens are used as biological systems for the studies. – See more at: http://dg.dk/preprod/en/centers-of-excellence-2/list-of-centers/#sthash.ypL7xEhT.dpuf



Newsletter