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Gilles Vanwalleghem awarded the Hallas Møller Emerging Investigator grant

Assistant Professor Gilles Vanwalleghem has been awarded a Hallas-Møller Emerging Investigator grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation of DKK 10 million (Euro 1,34 million) over the next five years to expand his research group at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University to study inflammation in the gut-brain axis.

Assistant Professor Gilles Vanwalleghem has received DKK 10 million (Euro 1,34 million) to study inflammation in the gut-brain axis (photo: Lisbeth Heilesen, AU).

The gut plays a crucial role in the overall health of an individual. It is also home to a complex network of neurons, the enteric nervous system, which regulates the gut homeostasis, the microbiome, and local immune responses.

Inflammation is an essential survival response to infection or tissue damage, but it can weaken the intestinal barrier and affect the enteric nervous system, disrupting the delicate balance that maintains gut functions. This disruption can have several negative effects, including impairing nutrient absorption, abdominal pain, and potentially leading to more serious health problems.

With the Hallas-Møller Emerging Investigator grant, Gilles Vanwallaghem and his research group will use zebrafish as a model organism to investigate the impact of inflammation on the development of the gut and associated gastrointestinal disorders. The hope is that this work will improve our mechanistic understanding and provide new targets for the development of therapies to treat these conditions.

About the Hallas-Møller Emerging Investigator grant

The Novo Nordisk Foundation awards only four Emerging Investigator grants per year - of which no less than two are awarded to researchers at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.

The purpose of the Hallas-Møller Emerging Investigator grants is to support and strengthen the development of promising young research leaders in Denmark by supporting highly promising starting group leaders with novel and ambitious projects within bioscience and basic biomedicine that will bring new and important insight into life and health.

Gilles Vanwalleghem’s research career

Gilles did his PhD studies at the Department of Molecular Biology at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, where he investigated how a human parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, interacts with its host and can modulate the innate immune response. His work made the cover of Science and Nature Microbiology, and he was awarded the Eugene Yourassowsky prize for best PhD thesis in infectious disease in Belgium.

Gilles then received an EMBO long-term fellowship to work on how zebrafish senses the outside world using optogenetics approaches. He worked with most of the fish senses, from hearing and balance to vision and sensing the flow of water. He then proceeded to contribute to study models of Fragile X syndrome in zebrafish and showed how learning and auditory responses were affected. He is now combining his work on immunity and neuroscience to study the gut-brain axis in larval zebrafish, which will bring new insights on the effect of the microbiome on mental health.

For further information, please contact

Assistant Professor Gilles Vanwalleghem
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Aarhus University, Denmark