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Published: 2023-05-25 Updated: 2023-06-13, 13:58

Multi-million investment in infection research at Umeå University

NEWS Kempestiftelserna, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Umeå University invest SEK 67.5 million in the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS).

Text: Jakob Mjöbring

MIMS is the Swedish node within the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine. This is a collaboration between the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the universities of Helsinki, Oslo, Århus and Umeå.

The partnership between EMBL and the Nordic laboratories is focused on the developing field of life sciences that investigates the molecular basis of diseases and explores molecular and genetic-based treatments.

The institute in Umeå focuses on infection medicine, which deals with diseases such as COVID-19, tuberculosis, or malaria, which are caused by microbes such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Infections are often difficult to treat and cause a considerable proportion of deaths worldwide. Vaccines are often missing, and resistance to antibiotics means that treatment of bacterial infections risks becoming ineffective.

An environment that generated a Nobel Prize

– MIMS is a world-leading environment that gives young researchers the opportunity to carry out world-class infection research, this deserves the Wallenberg Foundation's support, says Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chair, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

MIMS recruits international young group leaders who are given substantial funds. One of the most well-known former MIMS group leaders is Emmanuelle Charpentier who, during her time at MIMS in Umeå, discovered the mechanisms behind the CRISPR-CAS system. This discovery led to the development of genetic scissors that allow scientists to edit and change the DNA of organisms. For this discovery, Emmanuelle Charpentier was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Jennifer Doudna.

– Progress in molecular medicine requires that the best minds work together. I am therefore delighted that with this new support we can not only strengthen microbial research in Umeå, but also connect with researchers and clinicians in the whole of Sweden and link them to our Nordic and European network, says Oliver Billker, Director, MIMS.

The grant will finance new group leader positions at MIMS but will also provide support to clinical infection researchers at Swedish university hospitals with the aim of strengthening clinical infection research nationally and developing knowledge transfer from basic research to the clinic.

– Kempestiftelserna’s funds go to new positions at Umeå University. The foundations support research at universities in north Sweden, and MIMS is an environment that generated a Nobel Prize, which shows that it is possible to build internationally competitive research environments at these universities, says Alice Kempe, Chair of Kempestiftelserna.

Funds will also be allocated to support preclinical infection researchers where the goal is to create a national group of young MIMS researchers who connect group leaders early in their career with the EMBL network.

– We are happy to make this investment in MIMS together with the Kempe Foundations and Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, so that Umeå and Sweden can continue to contribute with research and development in an internationally very important area, says Hans Adolfsson, vice-chancellor of Umeå University.