Lars Rønn Olsen, Stela Canulescu, Mikkel Bentzon-Tilia, Dirch Hjorth Petersen, Johan Ulrik Lind. Photo: DFF

EUR 3.9 million to five young DTU researchers

Thursday 06 Dec 18


Lars Rønn Olsen
Groupleader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 24 25


Stela Canulescu
Group Leader, Senior Researcher
DTU Fotonik
+45 46 77 45 19


Mikkel Bentzon-Tilia
Associate Professor
DTU Bioengineering


Dirch Hjorth Petersen
Senior Researcher
DTU Energy


Johan Ulrik Lind
Group Leader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
Independent Research fund Denmark awards EUR 26 million to 34 young researchers with original ideas and high research leader ambitions. Five of them are from DTU.

As part of Independent Research Fund Denmark’s Sapere Aude programme, the Foundation awards grants totalling EUR 26 million (DKK 192 million to 34 excellent ‘DFF: Sapere Aude Research Leaders.’ They will have the opportunity to pursue research ideas at a high international level and to head their own research teams, and conduct research at an equally high level of significance for the future. Five of the young researchers are from DTU.

“We have made committed investments in the very best researchers to support promising research projects for the benefit of Denmark. They are promising projects as they that will help set the course for Danish research and create the basis for, for example, new quantum adventures and that in a very direct way provide important knowledge to societal issues,” says the Foundation’s Chairman of the Board Peter Munk Christiansen.

The five DTU-based researchers are


Lars Rønn Olsen

Associate Professor, PhD, at DTU bioinformatics, receives EUR 790,000 (DKK 5.9 million) for his project ‘Deep characterization of tumour and immune system for immunotherapy-based precision medicine treatment of breast cancer’.

Description: Cancer immunotherapy is a treatment form that activates the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. Two criteria must be met for immunotherapy to be effective. Firstly, the cancer cells must separate sufficiently from the body’s healthy cells, and secondly the patient’s immune system must be competent to be activated against them.

This means that some patients will benefit greatly from immunotherapy, while others will not respond to the treatment. In this project, I will use technologies such as DNA and RNA sequencing and mass cytometry to examine whether the two criteria are met in a group of 2,500 breast cancer patients, and lay the scientific foundation for immune therapeutic precision treatment of the disease in Denmark.

Stela Canulescu

Senior Researcher, PhD at DTU Fotonik, receives EUR 790.000 (DKK 5.9 million) for his project ‘Versatile van der Waals heterostructures’.

Description: The project will design new functional materials that can form part of new optoelectronic systems, such as ultra thin and light solar cells. These special structures—called van der Waals heterostructures—consist of combinations of atomic layers (2D) of semiconductors that are bound to each other with the weak van der Waals forces.

Stela Canulescu will develop a new and easily accessible method for producing promising van der Waals heterostructures, which provides opportunities for vital new optoelectronic systems.

Mikkel Bentzon-TIlia

Assistant Professor, PhD at DTU Bioengineering, receives  EUR 765.000 (DKK 5.7 million) for his project ‘The Bright Side of Microbial Dark Matter: An Untapped Source of Novel Natural Products’

Description: Antimicrobial resistance in bacteria is spreading at an alarming pace and constitutes one of the greatest threats to human health. Most antimicrobial agents are based on natural substances isolated from cultivable micro-organisms and one of the obstacles to the development of new antimicrobial agents is that we can grow less than 1 percent of the bacteria from the environment. The remaining >99 per cent, the so-called ‘microbial dark matter’, represent a large untapped pool of bioactive substances.

The purpose of this project is to isolate new antimicrobial agents from this pool. By developing new growth-independent methods for isolating bacteria from the environment, we can bypass the cultivation barrier to produce new antimicrobial agents.

Dirch Hjorth Petersen

Senior Researcher, PhD at DTU physics, receives EUR 790.000 (DKK 5.9 million) for his project ‘Metrology for Energy and Electronic Materials’.

Description: The research project aims to develop sophisticated metrology methods for characterizing semiconductor materials. The project will focus on the development of metrology aimed at materials used to convert waste heat into electricity and materials for future microprocessors.

The metrology methods will be based on micro-electrodes already used industrially for electrical characterization of advanced materials. The aim is to be able to make quick and accurate measurements of the key indicators for three-dimensional thermo-electrical materials (the material’s figure of merit) and to the one-dimensional electronic materials (determination of charge carrier concentration and movement in nanostructures).

Johan Ulrik Lind

Assistant Professor, PhD at DTU Nanotech, receives EUR 790.000 (DKK 5.9 million) for his project ‘3D-Printed Scaffolds with Embedded Sensors for Non-Invasive Monitoring of Adult and Fetal Heart Tissue Models.’

Description: Today, there is no method that can accurately predict whether a new medical treatment or external environmental impact may be detrimental to the adult heart, or may lead to heart defects in newborns. In this project, the aim is to restore the heart muscle in a fetus as well as in an adult human in the form of small living tissue models created from human stem cells. We will incorporate soft, electric sensors in the living tissues It will enable us to measure the development of the tissues over time and how they respond to external influences such as medicinal agents.

To validate the platform, we will test the medical agents which may give rise to congenital heart defects.

About the Fund

Independent Research Fund Denmark funds specific research activities within all scientific areas that are based on the researchers' own initiatives and that improve the quality and internationalization of Danish research.