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International top researcher moves to Aarhus University to study protein modifications

With a grant of DKK 50 M in the form of a Laureate Research Grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Professor Daan van Aalten moves his research group from the University of Dundee to the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, AU, where he has been appointed professor and will be housed in the brand new laboratories in the University City from 1 June 2022.

Daan van Aalten (photo: gre.dundee.ac.uk)

Proteins are “molecular machines” that run and regulate all processes in the human cell. Proteins can be modified by molecular switches, to allow their functions to be rapidly turned on or off. The van Aalten group studies one such modification, called O-GlcNAcylation. Recently the group has discovered patients with intellectual disability that are deficient in this modification, suggesting that it is essential for proper development of the nervous system during gestation. The van Aalten lab will use the NNF Laureate Research Grant to understand how and why O-GlcNAcylation is essential for neurodevelopment, with discoveries that could lead to avenues for treating this group of patients.  

Head of Department Erik Østergaard Jensen states: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming Professor Daan van Aalten and his research group to the Department. Over the years, Daan has managed to establish himself as an international expert within the field of protein modifications with impact on embryonic development and in neurodegenerative diseases".

His research covers different technologies, ranging from chemistry, structural biology, mass spectrometry, cell biology and model animals. The group will therefore be well-positioned to collaborate broadly at our Department and at the Natural Science and Health faculties with potential synergy for the relevant research groups. The generous funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation will allow the van Aalten group to quickly establish a strong foothold to fulfil its ambitious research goals,” concludes Erik Østergaard Jensen.

Daan van Aalten’s research career

Daan van Aalten is originally from the Netherlands where he obtained his BSc in Chemistry from the University of Nijmegen, followed by a PhD in Biochemistry/Biocomputing at the University of Leeds. After postdoctoral work in structural biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, on an EMBO Long Term Fellowship, and the University of Oulu, Finland, he established his group at the University of Dundee with the help of a Wellcome Trust Career Development and Lister Fellowship, with a research focus in the area of molecular and cellular glycobiology.

About the Laureate Research Grant
The Foundation awards 7-year Laureate Research Grants to leading international researchers who want to establish a research group in Denmark. Each grant of up to DKK 50 million is a framework grant covering project operations, salaries and research equipment over the 7 years. The grants may be extended for another 7 years based on a new application and an evaluation of the project in the sixth year.

For further information, please contact

Erik Østergaard Jensen, Head of Department
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Aarhus University
eoj@mbg.au.dk - +45 28992567