Foto: Vibeke Hempler

DKK 144.5 million from the EU for health technology projects

Friday 11 Oct 19


Jørgen Arendt Jensen
Head of Section, Professor, Ph.D., Dr.Techn.
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 39 24


Erik Vilain Thomsen
Head of Division, Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 57 66


Jan Henrik Ardenkjær-Larsen
Head of Department, Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 57 57


Rasmus Larsen
+45 45 25 10 10

On 11 October, the European Research Council (ERC) awarded new ERC Synergy grants. DTU participates in two of these, which have each been granted more than DKK 70 million.


ERC Synergy grants are not awarded to one single researcher, which is otherwise the standard practice for ERC grants. Instead, the grant is distributed between two to four researchers jointly, and the researchers have an equal position in the project. The synergy between the researchers’ different scientific competences is to produce new solutions to major scientific problems which the researchers would not be able to solve individually.

This is the first time DTU receives ERC Synergy grants, which have been awarded three times before (in 2012, 2013, and 2018). Provost Rasmus Larsen is pleased that DTU researchers have now received a share in the grants:

“The Synergy grants from the ERC are very interesting, as they support the researchers in their quest for the scientific breakthroughs that can often be made in the interface between disciplines. With these two projects, some of DTU’s highly competent researchers from DTU Health Tech have taken on a complicated and important challenge—in close collaboration with other leading researchers and based on each researcher’s individual imaging technology. Namely to find answers to how we can better diagnose—and thus treat earlier—some of the diseases which are among the greatest problems of society. That’s very pleasing. Supporting interdisciplinary collaboration was precisely the purpose of the establishment of DTU Health Tech.”

Improved imaging of ultrasound scans

In one project, SURE, the researchers will use red blood cells to create 3D ultrasound imaging in high resolution and in real time. This means that they follow red blood cells live while the cells run through the capillaries—the smallest blood vessels in the body—so that a high-resolution 3D image can quickly be produced of all blood vessels in the body. Studies of these fine capillaries are typically made using a contrast medium, which—seen in relation to ultrasound—is a cumbersome and slow process which takes up to ten minutes. The new method makes it possible to show the images immediately while the doctor is scanning, several thousand times faster than with the use of contrast medium. Ultrasound also has the advantage that there are no known side effects, and that it can therefore be used for all patients and several times. The researchers hope that the project can result in a paradigm shift in the scientific examination, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide variety of vascular diseases, cancers, and diabetes.

The total grant for the project is EUR 9.98 million, approximately DKK 75 million.

From DTU, Professor Jørgen Arendt Jensen from DTU Health Tech receives EUR 4.5 million, and Erik Vilain Thomsen from DTU Health Tech receives EUR 2.9 million. In addition, Professor Michael Bachmann Nielsen from Rigshospitalet (Copenhagen University Hospital) and Associate Professor Charlotte Mehlin Sørensen from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Copenhagen have received grants for the project. Read more about their contribution i this news story from University of Copenagen.

Read more about the project.

Extended use of magnetic scanning methods

The second project, HyperQ, also focuses on imaging, but on images created through NMR spectroscopy and MRI scans. The two technologies have made it possible to create new knowledge in a number of scientific fields—from chemistry to bioscience. However, their low sensitivity is a challenge. At DTU, the HYPERMAG centre—which is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation—works with a new technology, hyperpolarization, which amplifies magnetic resonance signals by a factor of 10,000 or more. Hyperpolarization makes it possible to use—for example—NMR and MRI for nanoscale trials or for metabolic processes such as those that occur in the body. In the ERC project, researchers must together develop new quantum mechanical software and technologies for hyperpolarization, which can further amplify the weak magnetic deviations captured by the scanner and target this for biological and medical imaging. In this way, the researchers hope to broaden the areas of application significantly. With access to metabolic processes right down to the smallest details and while they are occurring, new insights can be gained into a wide range of diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and the mechanisms behind neurodegenerative diseases.

The total grant for the project amounts to EUR 9.4 million—approximately DKK 70 million.

From DTU, Professor Jan Henrik Ardenkjær-Larsen from DTU Health Tech receives EUR 3.5 million. In addition, Professor Fedor Jelezko and Professor Martin Plenio from Universität Ulm receive grants for the project.

Read more about the project.

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