04. december 2018

Two Sapere Aude: DFF Starting Grants


Two young scientists from Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen receive the prestigious Sapere Aude Starting Grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark. Associate Professor Sine Lo Svenningsen is a molecular biologist investigating microbial genetics, and Assistant Professor Rasmus Heller investigates genetics, evolution and biodiversity of large mammals.

The grants are awarded within the framework of the Independent Research Fund Denmark´s Sapere Aude programme, the aim of which is to provide researchers in Denmark with the best possible conditions for producing outstanding research at a high international level. 

Sine Lo Svenningen, Section of Biomolecular Sciences:The project ‘Growth regulation by tRNA and tRNA-related small RNAs in bacteria’ will contribute to the development of improved methods for controlling bacterial growth. The findings could be of importance for the biotechnology industry as well as for the prevention of the growth of pathogenic bacteria during infection. All cells contain large numbers of essential transfer RNA (tRNA). A tRNA functions as the adaptor between a specific code in the DNA and the corresponding amino acid during protein synthesis. In collaboration with Associated Professor Michael A. Sørensen, also at BIO, Sine Lo Svenningsen´s research group has shown that the bacteria actively break down tRNA, so the supply is constantly matched to the demand.. This project will reveal the molecular mechanisms underlying the breakdown of tRNA and determine the effects on the bacteria.

  • ‘This Sapere Aude grant will allow me to put together a strong international team of researchers and students that will enable us to make fast progress and reach the project goals in a short time frame. With the grant, we will be able to figure out how tRNA, and the related RNA molecules we have identified, contribute to regulating bacterial growth’, says Sine Lo Svenningsen
Photo: Sine Lo Svenningsen, photo credits: The Independent Research Fund Denmark

Rasmus Heller
, Section of Bioinformatics and RNA Biology: The project ‘Admixture between wild and domestic bovines: implications for genetic improvement and conservation’.  In South East Asia the wild and domestic bovines have mixed with each other for thousands of years. This Sapere Aude project will apply genome data to examine the impact of such admixture on the wild and domestic species. For example, it is believed that Indonesian cattle breeds have become resistant to tropical diseases because they received genes from wild bovines.

  • ‘We will now identify which genes in Indonesia cattle that have been introduced by admixture with the banteng, which is an Asian wild bovine. This will enable us to understand and assess the potential for genetic improvement of cattle by means of natural and artificial transfer of genes from wild species’, says Rasmus Heller and continues,

‘This grant will enable me start working on an extremely interesting model system, which will form the basis of decades of research opportunities.’

Photo: Rasmus Heller, photo credits: The Independent Research Fund Denmark