Helle Krogh Johansen, Rigshospitalet pressefoto

60 Million DKK for research in persistent bacterial infections

Friday 18 Oct 19
by Anne Lykke, Anders Mønsted


Helle Krogh Johansen
Dr. med., Chief Physician
DTU Biosustain
+45 31 22 84 06

Persistens infections and antibiotic resistance

In persistent bacterial infections, antibiotic resistance arise late in the course of infection, where it constitutes the predominant explanation for the failure of antibiotic treatment.

Early in the infection process, on the other hand, there is only very limited development of resistance, and it is therefore of great importance to uncover alternative mechanisms for the ability of the infecting bacteria to survive antibiotics.

In PERFECTION, the researchers will clarify both resistance development and alternative mechanisms behind the bacteria's ability to tolerate antibiotics.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has granted 60 Million DKK to a research project that will use miniature organ models to study persistent infections.

The project PERFECTION, which has been granted 60 Million DKK by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, will investigate how persistent infections arise, develop and become persistent.

Bacteria causing chronic infections often form so-called biofilms, which give them the ability to hide from the patient’s immune response and avoid effective treatment with antibiotics. Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), gastric ulcers, Cystic Fibrosis, as well as Type 2 diabetes and obesity, often experience persistent infections leading to major health problems. Furthermore, persistent infections pose an enormous economic burden to the health system.

The grant is given to Professor and Dr. med. at Rigshospitalet and The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) – Helle Krogh Johansen.

“Today, we know very little about how persistent infections arise and cement themselves in the patient. Also, the systems to study these infections are very different from the actual environment they are supposed to simulate, and, therefore, this project is key to getting more knowledge,” says Helle Krogh Johansen.

Miniature organs to mimic infections

The researchers’ goal is to use patient tissues to develop miniature organ models, which very accurately mimic the natural environment in the respective organ. Hence, these miniature organs, organoids, resemble the natural environment more closely than current test tube infection models.

"This project is key to getting more knowledge"
Professor & Consultant Helle Krogh Johansen.

In order to build organoids, the researchers will culture epithelial stem cells into models of for example human lung tissue, human gastric tissue and skin tissue. Stem cells can grow into multicellular structures that self-organize into miniature tissues with differentiation patterns and cellular constructions that resembles the corresponding tissue.

The aim is also to further improve the culture conditions so the growing stem cells will resemble the natural organ even better than with current methods.

“We anticipate that PERFECTION will allow us to make predictions as to how an infection progresses more precisely. From this we hope that this knowledge can lead to new and improved applications in the clinic,” Helle Krogh Johansen says.

The combined molecular biological and medical translational research will be carried out by a consortium consisting of Professor Helle Krogh Johansen (Rigshospitalet and The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability at DTU), Professor Thomas Bjarnsholt (University of Copenhagen / Rigshospitalet), Associate Professor Kim Bak Jensen (University of Copenhagen), Associate Professor Manuel Amieva (Stanford University, California) and Professor Søren Molin (The Novo Nordic Foundation Center for Biosustainability, DTU).

About the Challenge grant

  • The Novo Nordisk Foundation's Challenge Program is established to support and promote world-class research, which aims to find answers to challenges in the global technology or healthcare field.
  • This time around, the Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded Challenge grants for five projects, totaling almost DKK 300 Million.

News and filters

Get updated on news that match your filter.