24 November 2015

Professor and Director Kristian Helin receives Director Ib Henriksen's Foundation's research award

Kristian Helin is a Professor and Director of the research Centre BRIC (Biotech Research & Innovation Centre) at the University of Copenhagen. The focus of his research is the understanding of how cancer originates and during the last 20 years, he has made an outstanding contributions to this, especially within the research field called epigenetics. Epigenetics constitutes an regulatory system for how genes are read and regulated by specific enzymes. Kristian Helin and his staff members have mapped a number of the complex processes and mechanisms that regulates the development and specialization of our cells. Among other things, they have identified a group of enzymes that enables the different cell types in our body to express exactly the genes they need, by switching the reading of genes on and off. They have also identified mechanisms for how the body maintains its supply of stem cells and how an altered activity of the epigenetic enzymes can lead to unrestrained proliferation and thereby cancer. Knowledge about these biological mechanisms constitutes one of the keys to the development of targeted drugs, which can stop the unrestrained growth of cancer cells. Kristian Helin has been made strides to translates these into the treatment of cancer patients, by founding the biotech company EpiTherapeutics. The Company was sold to the American pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences earlier this year.

Ib Henriksen was the son of entrepreneur Henrik Johan Henriksen and wife Kamilla, who were co-owners of one of Denmark’s largest private enterprises Henriksen & Kähler. This company owned Rockwool, a number of gas concrete factories in Denmark and England, the large gravel pits in Hedehusene, The Hasle tile and fire brick factory on Bornholm and large land areas in Denmark. In 1962 the company was divided so that the Kähler family took over Rockwool while the Henriksen family continued with the other activities. Ib Henriksen later became the sole proprietor of Hasle Tiles. In the late seventies the factory was sold to a foundation started by the county of Bornholm. Ib Henriksen died in 1982 with no heirs and had decided that his entire estate should be placed in a foundation with the purpose of supporting research and science as well as young people who seeks further education, especially abroad.