​Professor Jens Nielsen
​(Photo: Peter Widing​)

Major investment in research on proteins and drugs of the future

​Biopharmaceuticals have revolutionized medicine and made it possible to treat diseases in a new way. Today a new center, Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research, is launched. It will be partly located at Chalmers, and have a total funding of 510 million SEK.

​The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has decided to allocate 320 million SEK for the new Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research, WCPR, a leading international center of excellence in the field of protein research. Three universities – Chalmers, Uppsala University and KTH – are involved, as well as AstraZeneca. Together the parties made financial commitments of a total of 510 million SEK during 2016-2023.

WCPR will focus on studies of human proteins and production of biopharmaceuticals. The new pharmaceuticals have made it possible to treat advanced diseases, including various forms of cancer and autoimmune conditions. In future, it is expected that many more diseases will be treated using biological molecules.

– At the new center, we will be able to improve the production of biopharmaceuticals and make sure they can be ready to use as quickly as possible. The research of human proteins will at the same time lead to the identification of a whole range of new pharmaceuticals, says Jens Nielsen, professor and Head of Division at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.

The center will be located at Chalmers, AlbaNova University Center at KTH, SciLifeLab in Stockholm and Uppsala University. Around 100 people will work together within WCPR.

– Chalmers is now profiling its eminent research in the field of mathematical modelling of human cells. Our department’s involvement in WCPR strengthens our collaboration with KTH. We will also continue our contribution to top research concerning production of biopharmaceuticals in Sweden through the center’s cooperation with AstraZeneca, says Chalmers President Stefan Bengtsson .

A total of five research programs will be conducted:

  • Development of cell factories for biopharmaceutical production
  • Bioproduction of all proteins secreted by humans
  • Development of new concepts for antibody therapy
  • System biological studies of proteins of interest for drug development
  • Mapping the human proteome (i.e. all human proteins)

The focus of the collaboration between WCPR and AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceutical subsidiary MedImmune is to go from genome to procuct. WCPR will produce a protein library, consisting of one-third of human proteins. Most of the proteins have never before been evaluated for their potential to contribute to development of new drugs.

Jens Nielsen, how does it feel to see this center come true?
– Fantastic. We are now formally establishing a collaboration with other world leading researchers in the field of human proteins.
The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is Sweden’s largest private research funding body. The foundation has previously allocated 1 billion SEK for production of a Human Protein Atlas, and 2 billion SEK for improved Swedish Life Science research.

Read also the press release from The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation: Joining Forces in Research on Proteins and Biopharmaceuticals.

For more information, please contact:
Jens Nielsen, Professor in systems biology, Chalmers University of Technology, +46-702-43 66 18, nielsenj@chalmers.se.

Published: Tue 09 Feb 2016.