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Prestigious grant of DKK 11 million to Thomas Birkballe Hansen

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded the prestigious Hallas-Møller Scholarship valued at DKK 11 million to Thomas Birkballe Hansen to study which role so-called circular RNAs play in cells and their potential impact on neurological disorders. The project will be carried out at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics/iNANO, Aarhus University.

2016.04.26 | Lisbeth Heilesen

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded the prestigious Hallas-Møller Scholarship to Thomas Birkballe Hansen to study which role so-called circular RNAs play in cells and their potential impact on neurological disorders. The project will be carried out at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics/iNANO, Aarhus University. (photo: Lisbeth Heilesen)

The large grant was given Thomas Birkballe Hansen to carry out research in the function and biogenesis of circular RNAs involved in neurological disorders. Over the past decades, it has been well established that non-coding RNA, i.e. genomic transcripts not encoding proteins, can play important regulatory roles at all levels of gene expression. In addition, non-coding RNA has already been associated with a wide range of diseases. Circular RNA is a recently discovered class of non-coding RNA molecules with widespread abundance in all animals – specifically in brain tissue.

So far, only little is known about the function of these RNA circles, but with the support from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Thomas and his research team in the Section for Gene Expression & Gene Medicine will now study the role and relevance of circular RNA in cells and their possible impact on neurological disorders.

Thomas has also previously received recognition for his research work, as he has twice received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Lundbeck Foundation (2012-2016), and in 2014, he received the ST Science Award as he "for some years has been one of the greatest pioneers worldwide in circular RNA".

In fact, Thomas was instrumental in establishing the presence of circular RNA in human beings back in 2011 with the identification of a highly expressed circular RNA found in all mammals - published in the EMBO Journal. And two years later, in 2013, Thomas published the first functional characterization of a circular RNA in the journal Nature. As a consequence, Thomas has been invited as a speaker to a wide range of international and reputable conferences.


About the Hallas-Møller fellowship

With this fellowship, the Novo Nordisk Foundation wishes to make it possible for scientists primarily within clinical and basic biomedical research to establish or expand their own research group in Denmark.

The project must be anchored at a university, hospital or other non-profit research institution in Denmark. Applicants are expected to have a documented track record as independent scientists. The research must be of international excellence. It is expected that receiving the award will accelerate possible research breakthroughs.

Up to two fellowships, each of up to DKK 11 million over 5 years can be awarded to cover the applicant’s own salary and consumables directly related to the project with up to DKK 2.2 million per year. The fellowship is awarded for a period of 2½ years, after which it is possible to extend the fellowship with another 2½ years


More information

Assistant Professor Thomas Birkballe Hansen
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics/iNANO
Aarhus University, Denmark
tbh@mbg.au.dk - mobile: +45 2073 3619

Grant