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Novo Nordisk Foundation allocates DKK 50 million for emergency coronavirus initiatives

Lars Rebien Sorensen

NNF has allocated DKK 50 million to support projects with a national focus that take the initiative to mitigate the adverse health effects of the coronavirus epidemic in Denmark.

Applications may be submitted for scientific, information and outreach and social initiatives. The projects should be able to be initiated immediately, and the knowledge from the projects should also be publicly accessible and be able to be used in similar situations in the future.

“We face very serious health challenges. In taking this initiative, we aim to support the management of the effects of the COVID-19 situation in Denmark to benefit both individuals and society as a whole,” says Lars Rebien Sørensen, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Applicants will be notified within 48 hours

The applicants must be based at public institutions or authorities or private non-profit organizations such as NGOs in Denmark that are involved in combating the coronavirus epidemic. Applicants may apply for grants of up to DKK 5 million for a project. There is no application deadline, since the Foundation will assess the applications on an ongoing basis. Because of the severity of the situation, applicants will be notified within 48 hours.

Strengthening efforts to combat future viral infections

This new initiative follows on from the Foundation’s announcement earlier in March that it has allocated DKK 20 million to support research and development that can help Denmark to strengthen its preparedness for and response to future new viral epidemics. Read more here.

Hugh interest

Since the announcement there has been a huge interest in applying for grants from the Novo Nordisk Foundation under its emergency coronavirus initiative. The foundation has awarded grants for projects that include improving the monitoring of high-risk patients with COVID-19, reducing the number of admissions to intensive care units, setting up a telephone hotline to help older people who are feeling lonely, establishing a national infrastructure for collecting biological samples, examining how the coronavirus epidemic affects women during pregnancy and labour as well as newborns, development, testing and fast-track implementation of a national chatbot for questions related to COVID-19, using wireless glucose meters to provide hospital staff with real-time monitoring of blood glucose levels among COVID-19 infected patients, and mapping the extent of mental illness related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the projects receiving grants are updated regularly. Learn more about the projects that have received funding from the emergency programme here and here.

Investigating anti-inflammatory treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormone

One of the projects that has received a grant from NNF, of DKK 5 million, is a project that will enable hospitals in Denmark to investigate whether anti-inflammatory treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormone can help people with COVID-19.

“This grant will enable us to investigate whether low-dose steroid therapy can improve survival and reduce the number of days patients need intensive care. At a time when the COVID-19 epidemic is putting Denmark’s hospitals and intensive care units under maximum pressure, effective treatment can be crucial for improving outcomes for individual patients and the entire healthcare system,” says Anders Perner, Professor and Senior Staff Specialist, Intensive Therapy Clinic, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen and emphasizes that reducing each patient’s time in a respirator by one day can increase a hospital’s intensive care capacity by 10%.

Experience from intensive care patients with septicaemia or acute respiratory failure shows that a low dose of adrenocorticotropic hormone can reduce an acute inflammatory reaction in the lungs. For the patients with COVID-19, this steroid treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormone may shorten the time required to be on a respirator and in intensive care and may also improve survival.

The trial will be conducted in Denmark’s intensive care units and departments of infectious diseases after the relevant public authorities approve it. Anders Perner and his colleagues are currently working at full speed to obtain the necessary permits so that they can begin enrolling patients in the trial at all participating hospitals. The ambition is to enrol 1000 patients in the trial, which is expected to start mid-April. The data will be analysed on an ongoing basis to quickly determine whether steroid therapy is helping these patients and to identify any unforeseen side-effects.

Photo of Lars Rebien Sørensen: Novo Nordisk