Considerable Novo Nordisk funding for researcher Sesilja Aranko

Staff Scientist Sesilja Aranko has been awarded the highly competed Emerging Investigator 2023 Grant from Novo Nordisk Foundation for a research project focusing on post-translational modifications in protein-based biomaterials. The grant awarded is 10 million DKK (approx. 1.34M€) for a five-year period.
Sesilja Aranko.

The Emerging Investigator Grants are part of Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Research Leader Programme. The purpose of the Emerging Investigator grant is to support highly promising emerging research leaders to establish their own research groups. 

In the research project, Aranko wants to explore the role of post-translational modifications of proteins in the assembly and properties of protein-based materials. Protein-based materials carry the potential to combine excellent mechanical properties with inherent biodegradability and valuable functionalities, such as self-healing. Despite substantial progress in the design of artificial protein-based materials, they are yet to reach their full potential. 

One of the current limitations is related to so called post-translational modifications, which are covalent modifications of proteins occurring after their biosynthesis. There is accumulating evidence that they are essential for the mechanical properties and functionalities of the resulting materials. Yet, the mechanisms behind how these modifications affect the properties of biomaterials are not fully understood, mainly due to technical limitations.

Aranko aims to tackle some of the most pressing current technical limitations by developing methods to produce post-translationally modified structural proteins, including silks and collagens, in bacteria that cannot make the desired modifications naturally. The production in bacteria enables obtaining the proteins in an economical, ethical, and sustainable manner. Furthermore, Aranko will study the role of the modifications on the assembly of the structural proteins and utilize the modified proteins to engineer novel functional biomaterials. 

Further information

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is a Danish commercial foundation that operates independently. The vision of the Novo Nordisk Foundation is to improve people’s health and the sustainability of society and the plan is to contribute significantly to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society. Through its grant-awarding and commercial activities, the Foundation contributes to society by e.g., promoting excellent research and innovation, fostering the development of talent across different life stages and scientific fields, and developing new medicines, patient care approaches and sustainable approaches. Read more at

Sesilja Aranko

Senior Scientist
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