Published: 20-10-2020 09:54 | Updated: 20-10-2020 18:01

KAW donates SEK 3.7 billion to life science research

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Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW) launches a new research initiative and donates SEK 3.1 billion over 12 years to support data-driven life science and SEK 600 million to extend the existing funding to Science for Life Laboratory and to the Wallenberg Centers for Molecular Medicine. Many new research positions will be established.

The initiative spans basic research in fields such as new therapeutics, epidemiology and infection biology, precision medicine and diagnostics, evolution and biodiversity, and cell and molecular biology. These fields are central to efforts to improve human quality of life and wellbeing, and also to safeguard biodiversity and create sustainability.

Long-term initiative

“This is a massive, long-term initiative, aimed at placing Sweden among the world-leaders in the field, thereby contributing to a better quality of life for people, animals and nature,” says Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chair of Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, in a press release. 

The life science initiative is made up of two parts, whereby SEK 600 million will be used to extend the existing funding to Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab), a national research infrastructure that started as a joint effort between Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University, and to the Wallenberg Centers for Molecular Medicine (WCMM) at the University of Gothenburg, Lund University, Linköping University and Umeå University. The remainder is a new initiative to support data-driven life science to the tune of SEK 3.1 billion over 12 years. 

Growing at an exponential rate

The amount and complexity of life science data are growing at an exponential rate due to advances in research areas such as genomics, proteomics, metagenomics, metabolomics and groundbreaking new imaging technologies. At the same time, advances in computation and AI will enable new opportunities to analyse and process such data.

“As part of its 10-year plan, SciLifeLab has emphasised data-driven life science as a key strategic initiative,” comments Olli Kallioniemi, director of SciLifeLab and professor of molecular precision medicine at Karolinska Institutet. “It is extremely positive that KAW is now willing to provide major funding for this national effort. We think that this will be critical for Sweden's ability to stay as a front-line life science nation.”

The initiative gives priority to data-driven research in four areas: cell and molecular biology, evolution and biodiversity, precision medicine and diagnostics, and epidemiology and infection biology.

Many new research positions

The overall plan is to recruit 39 internationally pre-eminent researchers, establish a graduate school for 260 PhD students in academia and industry, and create 210 postdoctoral positions. A new type of industry-sponsored postdoc position will be introduced, giving 45 researchers the opportunity to combine research in academia and industry.

The host for the program, which runs until 2032, is SciLifeLab in collaboration with the Wallenberg Centers for Molecular Medicine, along with the Swedish research universities.

For many years, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has supported Sweden’s development into a leading life science nation through a wide diversity of initiatives. All in all, the Foundation will have allocated just over SEK 6.2 billion to research in life sciences during the period 2015– 2032.