Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen

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Phone: +46-(0)8-524 866 67
Visiting address: Nobels väg 6, Solna

About me

I took office as vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet on August 1, 2017 after having served eight years (2009-2017) as rector (President) of the University of Oslo (UiO). From 2002 to 2009 I was Director of Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience - one of Norway's Centres of Excellence.  I have served as Dean of Research at UiO’s Faculty of Medicine (2000-2002) and as Head of the UiO’s Department of Anatomy (1997-1999). In my period as rector, I led the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions (2013- 2015) and NUS- Det nordiska universitetssamarbetet (2013-2015). I have headed one of UiO’s interdisciplinary initiatives (EMBIO; now UiO:Life Science) and one of the major national programmes of the Norwegian Research Council (FUGE: Functional Genomics in Norway). I have coordinated two projects under the EU Framework Programme and one of the first three Nordic Centres of Excellence in Molecular Medicine, funded by NordForsk. I have taught medical students since 1976.

Commission of trust

From 2006 to 2009 I served as Chief Editor of Neuroscience - the official journal of the International brain research organization (IBRO). I have been engaged in a number of international institutional evaluations and served as panel leader in the European research Council (ERC Advanced Grants) from the start to 2012. I was Founding Chair (2016-2017) of a newly established European university network (the Guild of Research Intensive Universities) and chaired the Lancet Commission that studied the political determinants of global health inequalities (The Lancet-University of Oslo Commission on Global Governance for Health). I have served at a number of boards,  including the Board of the Oslo University Hospital (2012-2017) and chaired Samarbeidsorganet (Joint Council) of the regional health authority (Helse Sør-Øst) and University of Oslo, alternating with the Director of Helse Sør-Øst. I have led several prize award committees, and I am the current Chair of the Kavli Prize Committee in Neuroscience and of the Thon Foundation Advisory Board. At the Nordic level I have been board Member of Wallenberg Consortium North (2002-2006), Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Lundbeck Foundation (2007-2013), and Member of the board of Nordforsk (2013-2016).

Selected publications

The Sustainable Development Goals: ambiguities of accountability.
Engebretsen E, Heggen K, Ottersen O
Lancet 2017 Jan;389(10067):365

Euroethics--a database network on biomedical ethics.
Gavel Y, Andersson P, Knutssøn G
Health Info Libr J 2006 Sep;23(3):169-78

The political origins of health inequity: prospects for change.
Ottersen O, Dasgupta J, Blouin C, Buss P, Chongsuvivatwong V, Frenk J, et al
Lancet 2014 Feb;383(9917):630-67

Physiological roles of aquaporin-4 in brain.
Nagelhus E, Ottersen O
Physiol. Rev. 2013 Oct;93(4):1543-62

Immunogold cytochemistry in neuroscience.
Amiry-Moghaddam M, Ottersen O
Nat. Neurosci. 2013 Jul;16(7):798-804

Glial-conditional deletion of aquaporin-4 (Aqp4) reduces blood-brain water uptake and confers barrier function on perivascular astrocyte endfeet.
Haj-Yasein N, Vindedal G, Eilert-Olsen M, Gundersen G, Skare , Laake P, et al
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2011 Oct;108(43):17815-20

An aquaporin-4/transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (AQP4/TRPV4) complex is essential for cell-volume control in astrocytes.
Benfenati V, Caprini M, Dovizio M, Mylonakou M, Ferroni S, Ottersen O, et al
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2011 Feb;108(6):2563-8

Critical role of aquaporin-4 (AQP4) in astrocytic Ca2+ signaling events elicited by cerebral edema.
Thrane A, Rappold P, Fujita T, Torres A, Bekar L, Takano T, et al
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2011 Jan;108(2):846-51


MD University of Oslo, 1980.
PhD (Dr Med) University of Oslo, 1982.

Research description

My interest has been in the field of neuroscience, with a particular focus on synaptic structure and function and on the molecular mechanisms underlying water transport in brain. In recent years I have been engaged in global health  (, much inspired by my experiences gained as Chair of the Lancet-University of Oslo Commission (

Teaching portfolio

  • Educator of medical students since 1976, taught a number of fields, including neurobiology, histology, gross anatomy and functional anatomy.
  • Educator of physiotherapists and postgraduate students.

Academic honours, awards and prizes

I have received several international awards including the Anders Jahre Medical Prize and Lundbeck’s Nordic Research Prize (the latter shared with Jon Storm-Mathisen). I am Honorary Doctor of the University of Kuopio (now University of Eastern Finland) and École Normale Supérieure, Lyon.