Fighting the obesity epidemic

A UiB research project into diabetes and obesity has received a grant of 17.6 million Norwegian kroner from the European Research Council.

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Research into diabetes and obesity at the University of Bergen (UiB) gets a major boost with one of these Advanced Grants from the European Research Council (ERC). The project is led by professor and paediatrician Pål Rasmus Njølstad at UiB’s Department of Clinical Medicine.

He and his team have been studying genes that could be associated with obesity and diabetes. With the aid of the ongoing Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa), Njølstad and his team now wish to dig deeper into this research. Through their research, they are collecting biological material and survey data from more than 100,000 pregnancies.

Expensive research

– Without the grant from ERC it would not be possible to do this research. It is very expensive to conduct this research and surveys in such an extensive study. This work is both labourious and is technologically demanding. This enables us to find new mechanisms to show how obesity arises. We have to get involved early to try and prevent the obesity epidemic, Pål Rasmus Njølstad says to uib.no.

The Advanced Grants from ERC are in support of global research excellence. Applications for Advanced Grants need an impressive “10 year track record” and a documented leading profile in its research field.

A stamp of quality

To Njølstad this is about far more than the money.

– To reach this level of excellence in fierce competition is a stamp of quality. This brings us to a different international level. This is significant both for UiB and Haukeland University Hospital, and even for Norway as a whole, he suggests.

There is a lot of hard work and effort behind the application.

– I was excited when I opened the e-mail. It was beyond belief to receive confirmation that our application hade come through. It must be similar to winning Olympic gold. I want to stress the support from UiB, the Department of Research Management, the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and the Department of Clinical Medicine, Njølstad says.

– It is fantastic that Pål has succeeded in this. We have all worked hard for this. This is the first ERC grant at UiB’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. This is a game changer, head of the Department of Research Management Svenn-Åge Dahl says.

UiB’s Rector Sigmund Grønmo is also full of praise for Njølstad.

– This grant is important and valuable for the entire university, Grønmo says.

ERC Advanced Grants

The European Research Council supports research in all disciplines and encourages interdisciplinary projects. Applicants may be of any nationality, but need to be connected to a host institution – a university or other research facility – in an EU member country or EU associated member country.

ERC Advanced Grants are awarded to world-class researchers. Normally a grant of up to 2.5 million Euros is granted for a five year period. Under special circumstances, the award may be as high as 3.5 million Euros for a five year project.

Njølstad is the fifth UiB researcher to receive one of the ERC’s Advanced Grants. Previous recipients are Fedor Fomin, Frede Thingstad, Christopher S. Henshilwood and Kenneth Hugdahl.


Translated from the Norwegian by Sverre Ole Drønen.