Elite Research Prize for Ground-Breaking Research in Cell Memory – University of Copenhagen

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01 March 2018

Elite Research Prize for Ground-Breaking Research in Cell Memory

Elite Research Prize

Each year the Ministry of Higher Education and Science honours some of Denmark’s most talented researchers with the Elite Research Prize. This year Professor Anja Groth from BRIC receives the prize for her research into the memory of cells.

Excellent research at the highest international level. This is one of the criterions for receiving the prestigious Elite Research Prize. The prize is awarded once a year by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science to outstanding researchers, and this year the prize is awarded to Professor Anja Groth from BRIC (Biotech Research and Innovation Centre), among others, for her epoch-making discovery of the epigenetic mechanisms that control cell memory. 

‘I am very pleased with the recognition of our work that comes with this prize. We have attracted international attention, and it is therefore great also to receive national recognition. It will have a positive effect on our future research’, says Professor Anja Groth and adds that the financial recognition, among other things, will be used to develop new innovative tools that the researchers can use to address issues concerning cellular memory from new angles and strategies.

Discovery of Molecular Mechanism May Prove a Weapon Against Cancer
Anja Groth researches epigenetic cell memory focussing on the molecular mechanisms. She studies cells’ ability to remember what they are after they divide. When a cell divides it is important that it is done in the right way to prevent the cell from becoming e.g. a cancer cell. Errors in the cell’s memory may thus result in complex diseases. 

Anja Groth’s research shows how the cell remembers to send a particular protein to DNA lesions. Cancer cells divides rapidly and accumulate lots of DNA lesions. If these lesions are not repaired, the cells will die, and cancer cells therefore depend on DNA repair. The molecular mechanism that helps repair the cells thus constitutes an attractive target in new cancer treatment. In 2016 her discovery was published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, and Anja Groth and her research group patented the discovery the same year. Hopefully it can be used to develop new treatments.

‘We focus on basic research. However, when we identified a possible new target in the form of the protein TONSL in 2016, a translational perspective was added to our work. It is an interesting process, because it is a completely different way of doing research. Right now we are trying, together with researchers at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, to develop an inhibitor of the protein and form the basis of a start-up, which hopefully will be able to develop treatment forms of benefit to patients and society’, says Anja Groth.

A voice for More Women in Research
In several contexts Anja Groth has been an ardent advocate of promoting the presence of women in research. In 2014 she received the British prize Suffrage Science Heirloom, which honours leading women in science, their achievements and ability to inspire others. She has been involved with the organisation greenlight for girls, which aims to attract women of all ages to the technical and natural sciences, and the EU project TWIST meant to raise awareness of women’s role and representation in natural science.

Read more about the award of the prize here.

Contact:
Professor Anja Groth, email: anja.groth@bric.ku.dk, phone: +45 35 32 55 38