Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Cross-disciplinary research to solve the challenges of tomorrow related to disease and food

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is allocating up to DKK 360 million for research that will provide ambitious suggestions for how to solve global challenges related to disease and food. This will be achieved through the Challenge Programme, which seeks applicants under three interrelated cross-disciplinary themes within nanomaterials, alternative sources of protein and mathematical modelling.

What do nanomaterials, alternative sources of protein and mathematical modelling have in common? They can all help to solve some of the global challenges societies face in combatting disease and producing food.

Through its Challenge Programme, the Novo Nordisk Foundation is focusing on these three individual but interrelated themes in 2021 that will provide some of the answers on how to use research and technology to combat disease and to ensure that there will be enough food in the future to feed a growing population.

“These are three highly relevant themes that can equip us to optimally address global challenges related to combatting disease and avoiding food shortages. Focusing on all three themes in the same year and taking a cross-disciplinary approach make each individual theme stronger,” says Lene Oddershede, Senior Vice President, Natural & Technical Sciences, Novo Nordisk Foundation, who also gives examples of how research within each of the three themes can benefit the others.

“One example is that research on biological nanomaterials enhances research on sources of protein in food. Another example is that mathematical modelling provides a strong basis for understanding and predicting how complex systems – such as the transmission of viruses or antimicrobial resistance – behave across different space and time scales,” adds Lene Oddershede.

The three challenges in 2021

The three themes for the Challenge Programme 2021 are:

A challenge is linked to each of the three themes.

The challenge for applicants under the Smart Nanomaterials for Applications in Life Science theme is to develop functional or responsive nanomaterials that demonstrate novel or superior properties relative to applications within life science and/or biotechnology.

The challenge for applicants under the Proteins for Tomorrow’s Food theme is to understand and modulate the functional and material properties of plant and microbial proteins and to understand their interplay with other ingredients in the food matrix to create desired structures with the purpose of substituting animal proteins.

The challenge for applicants under the Mathematical Modelling of Health and Disease theme is to develop mathematical models that can bridge space and time scales from single molecules to entire ecosystems. Modelling can significantly progress understanding of the fundamental processes governing health and disease.