Sine Reker Hadrup. Foto: Søren Kjeldgaard/EliteForsk.

Cancer researcher receives EliteForsk prize

Thursday 27 Feb 20


Sine Reker Hadrup
Head of Sections, Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 35 88 62 90


Mathias Thor Nielsen
PhD student
DTU Chemistry
+45 31 33 17 19


Nikolaj Kofoed Mandsberg
PhD student
DTU Health Tech


Christina Bligaard Pedersen
PhD student
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 24 77
Professor Sine Reker Hadrup is honoured with one of this year's EliteForsk prizes for her immunotherapy research. At the same time, three PhD students from DTU are awarded EliteForsk travel scholarships.

Every year, the Danish Ministry for Higher Education and Science hands out EliteForsk prizes of DKK 1.2 million to five of Denmark’s most talented researchers, to raise awareness of the research and honour the best research results. In addition, 20 EliteForsk travel scholarships will be awardedof which three recipients are from DTU (read more about them below).


One of the five recipients of the EliteForsk prize is Professor and Head of Section Sine Reker Hadrup from DTU Health Tech. She receives the award for her research on how to enable the body’s own immune system to combat cancer, among other things.


One of the major challenges with cancer is precisely that the cells are able to hide from the immune system, so they are not killed and removed like viruses and harmful bacteria. In short, Sine Reker Hadrup tries to train the immune system to recognize cancer cells, kill them, and remove all traces.


Expectations for these types of cancer treatment—collectively called immunotherapy—have grown over the last about 20 years, because some treatments have been shown to cure very sick patients completely and because the number of cancers that can be treated with immunotherapy has increased.


Sine Reker Hadrup’s research is also about understanding other diseases, where the immune system plays a key role, namely the so-called autoimmune diseases such as the type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Here, however, the immune system is the source of the disease, attacking the body’s healthy tissue and cells.


One the same she receives the EliteForsk prize, Sine Reker Hadrup is lauching a new company, PokeAcell, based on her research. PokeAcell has secured exclusive licensing rights from DTU to a proprietary technology, for personalized T cell therapy. The new technology can activate and grow cancer-specific T cells present in patient’s own blood and the cells can then be given back to the patient as fully personalized treatment. The T cell therapy hold the potential of curative treatment in Metastatic Melanoma and Merkel Cell carcinoma – two of the most severe skin cancers today and with potential in several other indications.


DTU Provost Rasmus Larsen is particularly pleased with Sine Reker Hadrup receiving the EliteForsk prize:


“It’s a very well-deserved recognition. Sine has worked with this area all her professional life, and since she joined DTU about five years ago, she has been one of DTU’s key researchers in the field of health technology. Academically, she is incredibly strong and creates sensational and groundbreaking results in collaboration with the best in the world. She translates those results into new patents and businesses, so the research benefits society. In other words, she is an exemplary researcher. And we’re proud that she represents DTU”.

Read more.

EliteForsk travel scholarships

Three more DTUs receive prizes at this year’s EliteForsk conference: PhD students from DTU Health Tech and DTU Chemistry receive EliteForsk travel scholarships of DKK 200,000 for long-term study stays abroad.


Mathias Thor Nielsen of DTU Chemistry conducts research into exploiting metal clusters for future use as catalysts in, for example, manure production. Metal clusters are molecules, where metal atoms close to each other interact, which provides interesting properties. They can be used to produce completely new reactions—for example in the field of catalysis.


The Elite Forsk travel scholarship enables a long-term stay at Harvard University with Professor Theodore A. Betley, one of the world’s experts on metal cluster chemistry.


Read more about Mathias Thor Nielsen's research.


Nikolaj Kofoed Mandsberg of DTU Health Tech conducts research into bio-inspired materials and how they can be used to solve health technology challenges, such as the method used for individual biological mapping of patients to identify optimal treatment.


The Elite Forsk travel scholarship enables a research stay, which can help establish new collaborations as well as further development of existing ones and provide alternative research approaches.


In her PhD project, Christina Bligaard Pedersen of DTU Health Tech focuses on mapping the immune system’s interaction with single-cell cancer. This is done in collaboration with the Center for Genomic Medicine at Rigshospitalet, which enables access to a unique data set from over 2,000 cancer patients, generated using state-of-the-art high-capacity technologies.


The Elite Forsk travel scholarship enables a two-part stay at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, a leader in single-cell RNA sequencing, and Stanford University, pioneers of immune profiling.

About EliteForsk

Every year, the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science hands out five EliteForsk prizes and up to twenty EliteForsk travel scholarships to some of Denmark’s best and most talented researchers and research students. The prizes are presented at the annual EliteForsk conference, where the Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, members of the Danish royal family, and representatives of the Danish research community will participate.

The aim of the EliteForsk initiative is to raise awareness of excellent researchers and research results. In addition, EliteForsk is also intended to showcase researchers as role models to attract more young students to a research career, so we can meet the ambition of making Denmark one of the world’s leading and most competitive knowledge communities.


The EliteForsk prize

The EliteForsk prize is presented to brilliant researchers of the highest international standard under the age of 45. Five awards are awarded annually. The EliteForsk prize comes with DKK 1.2 million. DKK 200,000 are given as a personal honorary award, and DKK 1,000,000 go to research activities.

Universities, research institutions, and private companies with research activities can nominate candidates for the award. All nominations are assessed by Independent Research Fund Denmark, which selects and nominates the five candidates to the Minister for Higher Education and Science.


The EliteForsk travelscholarships

An EliteForsk travel scholarship is of DKK 200,000 and must contribute to enabling highly talented PhD students to go on long-term study stays abroad at leading international research environments. Up to 20 EliteForsk travel scholarship are awarded annually.

Universities and other PhD institutions can nominate a certain number of candidates for the travel scholarships. The institutions’ nominations are assessed by the Board of Directors of Independent Research Fund Denmark, which selects and nominates the PhD students to the Minister for Higher Education and Science.