The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation funds molecular medicine research

Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson
Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson

The Wallenberg Centre for Molecular Medicine at Lund University in Sweden has received major funding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation – operational support worth SEK 150 million plus SEK 68 million for recruitment packages in data-driven life science.

During the period 2014–2015, the foundation granted SEK 825 million to establish four Wallenberg Centres for Molecular Medicine (WCMM) in Lund, Gothenburg, Linköping and Umeå. The aim was to strengthen the life science field in Sweden by training the researchers and research team leaders of tomorrow so as to guarantee a high standard of research. The funds were allocated until 2024, but with continued operational support totalling SEK 600 million, activities can now continue until 2028.

The support is part of national funding for life science in which the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is granting a total of SEK 3.7 billion over 12 years, of which SEK 3.1 billion is earmarked for data-driven life science.

“In Lund we focus on regenerative medicine and with this funding we now have the resources for recruitment packages in precision medicine and diagnostics as well as in infection transmission and infection biology. These are four powerful recruitment packages that focus on data-driven research”, says Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson, professor at Lund University, director of WCMM in Lund and chair of the national committee of SciLifeLab.

The funding for infection transmission and infection biology is linked to the current pandemic, but is also intended to create better knowledge and preparedness for future pandemics.

“Some people don’t notice that they are ill with Covid-19, whereas others become very ill. The research may help us to understand this disparity. The funding for infection transmission and infection biology is linked to Covid-19 and new situations that may arise”, says Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson.

“The hope is that this could lead to more personalised treatment in the future”, continues Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson.

“Personalised medicine is a core issue for the current faculty management and has been a guiding principle for the faculty’s prioritisations. This funding strengthens our ambitions so that we can attain practical patient benefits even faster”, says Erik Renström, dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

The funding for data-driven life science will be placed under the board of SciLifeLab. Just over SEK  1 billion is allocated for 260 doctoral student packages and 210 postdoc packages, which will be advertised for national competition. In addition, major resources are being allocated to artificial intelligence, bioinformatics and databases. 


What is data-driven life science?

If you see yourself as a data platform you can pick out information about yourself; measure proteins and functions during actions such as breathing or moving, and produce images, of your joints or lungs for example. The information is linked together in a long chain using algorithms in what is known as artificial intelligence (AI).

“If you take a drug in the form of a tablet, we can measure how the tablet works on several levels, whether you get better and what happens to your lung function or when you move. In this way we can measure a course of events and this may lead to more personalised treatment, as we can connect the latest research to your own profile”, says Gunilla Westergren-Thorsson.

In the research this means identifying biomarkers that can help to provide better treatment and build up data banks containing bioinformation.