26 February 2015

Biophysicist receives EliteForsk Award 2015

Eliteforsk award

Biophysics professor Lene Oddershede of the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute at the Faculty of Science (SCIENCE) will receive an EliteForsk Award - Denmark's largest public research award - on Thursday, February 26. Lene Oddershede's work mainly focuses on an interdisciplinary research domain where physics, biology and medicine merge. Among other things, award funding will go to build new equipment that will be used to better understand how the development of stem cells can be steered for the benefit of patients worldwide.

Professor Lene Oddershede

Professor Lene Oddershede, Niels Bohr Institute, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen

The award is an acknowledgment of Lene Oddershede's numerous breakthroughs, including her success in building Scandinavia's first optical tweezers. The tweezer instrument uses a powerful, highly focussed laser beam to study and manipulate individual cells and molecules without damaging surrounding tissues.

The optical tweezer will be used in a new University of Copenhagen centre, one that Oddershede has just received DKK 60 million in funding (8 million euro) from the Danish National Research Foundation to build. The centre spawns from an interdisciplinary collaboration between physicists at SCIENCE's Niels Bohr Institute and stem cell biologists at the Faculty of Health Sciences. Its work will generate new knowledge on stem cells. Steering the development of stem cells remains a challenge for researchers worldwide:

"Our optical tweezers make it possible to grasp individual stem cells and study them while they are alive. We can expose them to various factors and find out what causes them to develop into specific cell types. Are distinct signals received that cause stem cells to become a skin cell in one case, and a liver cell in another? If we are able to control the differentiation of stem cells, we can also control what they become. This opens up an enormous array of perspectives. In fact, I am sure that in the future, stem cells will be used in the treatment of a many illnesses," says Lene Oddershede.

If successful, this knowledge will make it possible to cultivate new and healthy organs using a human’s own stem cells, create insulin producing cells that could heal diabetics and grow cells that serve to investigate how well a patient will respond to a given medicine.

Lene Oddershede continues:

"I am extremely thankful for this award. An EliteForsk Award is a tremendous acknowledgement of my work and shows that I am headed in the right direction. The award also makes it possible to build new and experimental microscopy equipment that will improve our ability to make future breakthroughs in this area of research."

Lene Oddershede heads the Niels Bohr Institute's "Optical Tweezer" group on a daily basis, and from April 1, 2015 will serve as Centre Director for the Danish National Research Foundation's "Center for Stem Cell Decision Making". Lene Oddershede also heads a research project that investigates cancer cell mobility, funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research. And, she is also spearheading an effort to develop a new nanoparticle-based cancer therapy funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Lene Oddershede is from Munkebo, on the island of Funen and currently lives in the Copenhagen suburb of Bagsværd with her husband and three sons.

For more information about Oddershede’s research projects, visit www.stemphys.ku.dk and tweezers.nbi.dk