CanCell members join the NCMM

The Norwegian Centre for Molecular Medicine (NCMM) is working internationally to promote young and talented researchers to grow. The centre focus on molecular medicine, translational research and biotechnology and it is part of a big commitment to life sciences done by UiO. CanCell researcher Helene Knævelsrud has been appointed as a young associate investigator and Anne Simonsen has been re- elected as an associate investigator in the centre for the second time. 

Image may contain: Property, Water resources, Facade, Neighbourhood, Real estate.

The research park where you can find the NCMM. Photographer: John Hughes

Image of researcher Helene Knævelsrud
Helene Knævelsrud. Photo: Amalie Hovland, UiO

Helene Knævelsrud is a project leader in Jorrit Enserink’s lab group while Anne Simonsen is the leader of her own lab at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, UiO. We are proud to announce that they both have been elected as associate investigators in the NCMM and send our congratulations.

Congratulations Helene! How do you feel about being appointed as a NCMM young associate investigator? 

  – It feels great and it is an honour to be on the list with many big names in the Norwegian research community for biomedical research, she says.


Using fruit flies to model MLL-rearranged leukemia

In her lab Helene Knævelsrud is working with fruit flies to model MLL- rearranged leukemia and to understand how autophagy is turned off.  She is working in the Cancer Molecular medicine group at CanCell. In addition, Helene is also a member of the Young academy of Norway, an interdisciplinary organization focusing on research policy and research communication

– Since NCMM is collaborating with several universities and research groups she points out that a membership there will facilitate creation of new opportunities for doing research and i look forward to being part of this network and the centre. 

There are a lot of exciting groups there and she looks forward to be able to cooperate with them and to apply for the NCCM grants funding the cooperations. We asked her about her first impression of the centre. 

– It is a young and dynamic environment which supports up and coming researchers to solve important basal medical questions with a goal that their findings will be important in a clinical setting, Helene explains. 

Anne Simonsen re-elected as an associate investigator

Image of researcher Anne Simonsen
Anne Simonsen. Photo: UiO

Turning to Anne Simonsen who has the longest experience in the centre, we look forward to hearing her tips for getting the most out of the opportunities that comes with a membership there. Firstly, congratulations on the re- election Anne!  

 –  Thank you very much!

As most of our readers might know, you lead your own lab in CanCell. What are the main projects and co- operations you work with right now in the NCMM? 

 We have been involved in several collaborations with NCMM group leaders, including a long- term collaboration with Camila Esguerra, who runs the Zebrafish core facility

Trying to understand how Eat-me signals lead to mitochondrial degradation

Simonsen tells us that they have been working together with Camila Esguerra on two projects (published in 2019 and 2020). In one of these which received funding from NCMM they conducted research on a protein that normally resides in the mitochondria but become exposed on the surface of the mitochondria upon mitochondrial damage. This protein then functions as an “eat- me” signal that alert the autophagy machinery so that it can react and engulf the damaged mitochondria, leading to their degradation.  

– Zebrafish lacking this specific protein develops Parkinsonian- like phenotypes, Simonsen explains. 

You can read more about the project here (Link to DOI). Simonsen has also received NCMM seed funding for two additional projects, one together with previous NCMM group leader Preben Mort and one ongoing project with NCMM group leader Sandra Lopez Aviles. You will hear more about both projects in later articles. 

The centre grants great opportunities for research grants 

There are also great opportunities to apply for research grants with other members within the centre, so called seed- funding. 

–   These grants are meant to encourage collaborations between the group leaders and associate members, which in addition to scientific collaborations also facilitate networking both within and outside NCMM, Simonsen says. 

She also points towards to the opportunities for meeting researchers in different fields that works in the centre and says that this has further excelled her work by providing new opportunities for collaborations. We asked her if she has any advices for the newly appointed NCMM young associate investigator Helene Knævelsrud. 

– First of all, this is great news and I am happy on Helene’s behalf. As you might know Helene was a PhD student in my lab, many congratulations!  

Simonsen’s advice is to utilize the opportunities for networks building in the centre and to apply for the grants given by the NCMM. 

Explorers in the landscape of cancer research

To work as a cancer scientist is no easy work and especially not when there is a pandemic going on around us. Therefore, we wanted to know what motivates Helene and Anne to work in the field. 

– I am motivated by discovering new things and by having ideas which we get the opportunity to try out in the lab. It is also highly motivating to see that my findings can contribute to improving people’s lives and have a significance in the clinical setting Helene Knævelsrud concludes the interview. 

For Anne Simonsen research is exciting and it is fun to figure out how things are connected and works, and she is highly motivated by working together with talented scientists in her group and help them further excel their careers.

   I hope to be able to contribute with a small part of the great puzzle that makes us understand cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, she concludes the interview. 
*1 Abudu et al, «NIPSNAP1 and NIPSNAP2 Act as “Eat Me” Signals for Mitophagy”, Developmental Cell, Volume 49 Issue 4, link to the paper.

Tags: NCMM, CanCell, Simonsen, Knævelsrud, Research cooperation, Autophagy
Published Jan. 14, 2021 4:25 PM - Last modified Jan. 18, 2021 12:52 PM