Professor wants to transform neuroscience to treatment in new headquarters
When the Danish Neuroscience Centre in Aarhus opens, it will be one of the few places in the world to bring researchers from psychiatry and all the other specialist neuroscience fields together under the same roof. This is a prerequisite for taking brain research to a world class level, according to the chair of the centre.
In just a few years, Aarhus will be home to one of the world's leading neuroscience research centres which will work to develop the best international treatment of patients with brain diseases.
This is the stated ambition of the Danish Neuroscience Centre (DNC), which has just taken a significant step towards bringing brain research in Aarhus to a new level.
On Tuesday of last week, it was revealed that the DNC will bring together researchers from both psychiatry and all other neuroscience fields in one new large building in Aarhus which, according to the plan, will be ready in 2026.
According to Professor, Department Chair and Consultant in neurosurgery Jens Christian Hedemann Sørensen, who is also chair of DNC, this will thereby create the optimal framework for brain research in Aarhus.
"If we’re going to go the whole translational path from gene and molecule to experiments on laboratory animals and further to the development of new patient treatments, then there is a need for a strong university and a strong university hospital working closely together. We already have very strong neuroscience research in Aarhus, but it can’t stand alone without strong clinical research that translates research into new patient treatments. So in this way, the new DNC is a prerequisite for us to be able to deliver on our vision," he says.
Research centre without bricks and mortar
The DNC was established in 2009 and was located on Nørrebrogade in direct continuation of the clinical neuroscience departments.
Already at that time, the goal was to provide a framework for groundbreaking and interdisciplinary neuroscience research that was close to the patients.
In connection with the university's acquisition of the Nørrebrogade complex, DNC had to move out of its premises in 2019 as the university had other plans for the buildings.
Today, DNC’s scanners and research equipment are located at Aarhus University Hospital in Skejby, while its researchers are spread across many different addresses. As DNC’s research groups have attracted increasing grants and leading international researchers, its space requirements have also increased.
The interdisciplinary collaboration between the campus and the large group of neuroscientists in the clinic at AUH, which, according to Jens Christian Hedemann Sørensen is crucial for creating innovative solutions, has therefore operated under difficult conditions.
"It's been bothersome. Spontaneous meetings help understanding and generate new projects, and that's why we’ve also really focused on bringing the researchers from campus and AUH together," he says with reference to AU's interdisciplinary network for neuroscience researchers, which he helped start together with Professor Leif Østergaard (Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience) and Professor Anders Nykjær (Department of Biomedicine).
The NeuroCampus network organises the annual and very successful Neuroscience Day and is also very involved in the MacthPoints 2022 conference under the theme "Our Amazing Brain".
Proximity is crucial to new ideas
All obstacles should, however, be removed when DNC moves into its new home, which will be located between AUH’s neuroscience departments and Psychiatry on Palle Juul Jensens Boulevard.
In the approx. 19,000 square metre building, designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group, there will be space for up to 500 researchers. This will give neuroscience the optimal framework, according to Jens Christian Hedemann Sørensen.
"First and foremost, it’s important that we are gathered together because new knowledge arises when people meet across scientific disciplines. When I meet with my colleagues from Psychiatry, when I meet with a researcher from Biomedicine who is carrying out basic research, or when I meet with the patient, that’s when new knowledge and ideas arise for new treatments and projects," he says.
Every fifth Dane suffers is affected by diseases in the brain, and together these cost society DKK 39 billion annually in directly related healthcare expenses.
On the brink of a new breakthrough
AU and AUH are already world-renowned for their contribution to the diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases.
DNCs researchers have, among other things, demonstrated how the brain's smallest blood vessels function poorly in patients with Alzheimer's disease. With more research, the researchers hope that in the long term, they will be able to prevent dementia before the symptoms occur.
DNC researchers have also discovered "inflammation actions" in the brains of people who are known to be at high risk of developing Parkinson's disease. This knowledge could pave the way for new treatments which may in the long term prevent the disease from occurring.
With DNC’s new research centre, Jens Christian Hedemann Sørensen expects that the seeds have been sown for new breakthroughs in neuroscience research – first and foremost for the benefit of the patients.
"I hope and expect that this will mean that we will, among other things, be able to translate some of the massive knowledge we have gained about neurological and mental illness into new treatments that make a difference for the patients," he says and adds:
"In addition, we also hope that the new DNC will establish a unique research environment which will attract the best research talents from abroad, and which can help to raise neuroscience research in Aarhus to an even higher level."
Like Jens Christian Hedemann Sørensen, the Dean of the Faculty of Health, Anne-Mette Hvas, is pleased to see that brain research in Aarhus will now have the optimal framework.
"With DNC, the close connection between basic researchers, clinical researchers and patients is crucial for creating new perspectives on diseases in the brain and the nervous system, and I'm pleased that it will now be possible to gather the neuroscience research and patients under the same roof in a modern building that is designed to inspire innovative solutions," she says,
The new DNC is financed by private donations from, among others, the Salling Foundations, who have made a grant of DKK 250 million towards the building.
The Danish Neuroscience Centre was established in 2009 by the Central Denmark Region and Aarhus University. DNC’s researchers are currently housed in several temporary premises at various locations around the city and will therefore now be able to move into a new building located next to Aarhus University Hospital.
The new building will provide the framework for new breakthroughs for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the brain.
The building will total approx. 19,000 square metres and is expected to be completed in 2026.
Professor, Department Chair at the Department of Clinical Medicine & Consultant in Neurosurgery at Aarhus University Hospital
Jens Christian Hedemann Sørensen
Tel.: (+45) 2388 2178