This year’s Wallenberg Clinical Scholars conduct clinical research in order to discover markers that can reveal dementia and Parkinson’s disease at an early stage, to develop better treatments for the blood cancers leukemia and MDS, as well as conducting research in uterus transplantation.
“The Foundation primarily supports basic research, but through this program we also aim to provide a long-term boost to Swedish clinical, patient-based research. Through their contacts with patients, doctors who conduct research are often able to capitalize more rapidly on the patients’ experiences, and their own, in their research. Clinical researchers also help new research results to influence on care more quickly,” says Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation run the Wallenberg Clinical Scholars program in partnership. The aim is to boost Swedish clinical research by identifying the best clinical researchers, providing them with good conditions in which to conduct their activities and to disseminate their research results, both within the scientific community and in healthcare.
“Sweden has exceptionally good conditions for world-leading clinical research, but it has become increasingly difficult to combine research with the current pressured healthcare system. It is therefore very pleasing that the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is making such a significant investment and providing some of our most outstanding clinical researchers with such excellent resources. This is a great benefit, both for medical research and for Swedish healthcare,” says Göran K. Hansson, Secretary General of the Academy of Sciences.
Mats Brännström, chief physician and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, leads a revolutionary project for uterus transplantation, through which a total of eight children have been born. He is now working to minimize the duration of the surgical procedure, counteract rejection of the uterus and to conduct long-term follow-ups of all those involved.
As a Wallenberg Clinical Scholar, Mats Brännström will conduct longitudinal medical and psychological follow-ups of children, women and donors to ensure that they are not affected by any unwanted side-effects. One of his long-term aims is to try to create a uterus from stem cells.
Thoas Fioretos, chief physician and professor at the Department of Clinical Genetics, Lund University, is working on improving clinical diagnostics and on developing more targeted treatments for leukemia. As a Wallenberg Clinical Scholar, he will develop new methods to improve diagnostics, treatment selection, and follow-up of patients diagnosed with leukemia. The project will also provide important insights into why leukemia develops.
Oskar Hansson, chief physician and professor at the Department of Clinical Sciences in Malmö, Lund University, is looking for molecular markers that may, at an early stage, indicate different dementia- and Parkinson’s disease-related disorders, so that these disorders can be correctly diagnosed, and treatment can begin sooner.
With the aim of identifying the early signs of neurodegenerative diseases, Oskar Hansson is following almost 3000 people with everything from minor memory problems to various forms of dementia and Parkinson’s disease and comparing them with healthy controls. The results of his project have already contributed to improving the diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease. It is hoped that the new knowledge could also be used to develop pharmaceuticals that protect nerve cells and slow down the progression of the disease.
Eva Hellström-Lindberg, chief physician and professor at the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, conducts research that has significantly improved the treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a form of blood cancer. Her objectives include being able to predict relapses following a bone marrow transplant, so as to save the lives of even more affected patients. Early treatment of a relapse increases the chance of being able to save the patient’s life.
As a Wallenberg Clinical Scholar, Eva Hellström-Lindberg will build upon the discovery of a genetic change that is associated with a better disease prognosis, and develop treatments that can make the disease take a benign course.
About the program
During the program period, 2015-2025, twenty-five grants will be awarded to Sweden’s foremost clinical researchers. This amounts to SEK 600 million, with each researcher receiving SEK 15 million for a five-year period, with the potential for a five-year extension.
Wallenberg Clinical Scholars is part of the SEK 2.5 billion that the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is investing to boost medical research and the life sciences, Life Science, over a ten-year period.
Universities with medical faculties are invited to nominate researchers for these research grants. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible for the scientific evaluation.