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Published: 2019-12-02 16:16 | Updated: 2019-12-05 10:26

They are this year’s Wallenberg Academy Fellows at KI

Photo: Markus Marcetic © Knut and Alice Wallenbergs Foundation/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Six of the 29 new Wallenberg Academy Fellows appointed in 2019 will conduct their groundbreaking research at Karolinska Institutet. The five-year grant is financed by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation to provide the young and talented researcher leaders with long-term research funding in Sweden.

The selected applications cover a wide range of subjects, as the funding is for research in the natural sciences, technology, medicine, humanities and social sciences. Thanks to the funding, many of the researchers will be able to continue working in Sweden, while others are recruited to Sweden to build up their research here. The underlying intention of the Wallenberg Academy fellow programme is to strengthen Sweden as a research nation

The programme has been established in partnership with the Swedish royal academies and 16 universities in Sweden. Grants vary from SEK 5 to 15 million per researcher over five years, depending on the field. At the end of the first period, researchers can apply for an additional five years of funding. Since the program started in 2012, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has invested a total of SEK 1.9 billion.

 “To make scientific breakthroughs, it is important to concentrate on your research for a long period and have good resources. Wallenberg Academy Fellows provides these conditions, and they are available during what could be the most creative phase of their research careers. They also have the opportunity to participate in a mentoring program, which helps boost their scientific leadership,” says Göran K. Hansson, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The 2019 WAF at KI

Petter Brodin, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, and SciLifeLab
About the research: Once a child has been born, its immune system develops rapidly. Dr Petter Brodin will investigate how its development is affected by environmental factors, such as breastfeeding, infections and the infant’s gut flora. An important objective is to understand why some people are affected by allergies or autoimmune diseases.

Pia Dosenovic, now at the Rockefeller University, USA
About the research: B cells mature after a vaccination, and memory B cells are created that remain in the body for a longer period of time. Dr Pia Dosenovic will investigate how a second dose of a vaccination best activates the memory B cells that recognize the unchanging parts of HIV. The objective is to understand how to generate an effective, long-lasting defense against pathogens by vaccination.

Qiaolin Deng, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
About the research: Germ cells are special, because they carry genetic material from one generation to the next. Dr Qiaolin Deng will study the development of germ cells, with the aim of increasing our understanding of how environmental factors can influence their maturation, as well as why some of the cells end up at the wrong place in the body, where they can cause cancer.

Itziar Martinez-Gonzalez, now at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
About the research: Dr Martinez Gonzalez has discovered a specific immune cell that may explain why eczema is a risk factor for asthma. She will investigate whether these cells – once they have been activated by eczema – may then provoke an allergic reaction in the lungs.

Simon Elsässer, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, also at SciLifeLab and the Ming Wai Lau Centre
About the research: Reversible modifications to our genetic information govern which genes are active in a cell. There is currently little knowledge about how such epigenetic information is inherited during cell division, but Dr Simon Elsässer has developed an ingenious method that he will use to study this fundamental question.

Katja Petzold, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics
About the research: A biomedical researcher’s dream would be to look inside a cell and study how the tens of thousands of biomolecules that build and operate it work. Dr Katja Petzold will develop a technique that takes researchers one step closer to this dream, imaging individual biomolecules in action in the cell.