The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Karolinska Institutet has received a grant of SEK 100 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation for a regenerative medicine research centre - the Wallenberg Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WIRM). The initiative gives Karolinska Institutet unique opportunities to mobilise its resources around groundbreaking research focused on the blood system.

Regenerative medicine and stem cells are two research fields in which revolutionary scientific advances have been made in recent years. Karolinska Institutet has long been at the cutting edge of these rapidly growing scientific domains.

“The establishment of WIRM presents a unique opportunity for the leading basic and clinical research being done at Karolinska Institutet to come together under a brand new research centre, enabling us to address issues that we currently don’t have the resources to tackle,” says Professor Urban Lendahl, scientific director of WIRM.

As more and more is learnt about stem cells and regenerative medicine, new perspectives open up on the treatment of many diseases. The research to be done at the WIRM will incorporate a broad spectrum of therapeutic areas, with a particular focus on the blood system, and further develop the process of bone marrow grafts for currently untreatable diseases and patient groups.

“It’s a pleasure and an honour that Karolinska Institutet’s second centenary celebrations are to be crowned by this generous research grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation,” says Professor Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, president of Karolinska Institutet . “The grant creates fantastic opportunities for us to conduct groundbreaking research of the highest international quality in incredible important research fields.”

The Wallenberg Foundation’s grant and the new research centre strengthen Karolinska Institutet’s infrastructure in the field with the establishment of high-tech equipment and new experimental techniques. One aspect of strategic value is that the grant will enable the recruitment of key competencies, giving a decisive boost to Sweden’s position in the field.

“The chance to research at Karolinska Institutet is extremely attractive,” says Professor Sten Eirik W. Jacobsen, world-leading researcher at Oxford University on the biology and pathology of the blood system, who will now be basing a significant part of his research at WIRM. “The newly opened WIRM centre will have every opportunity to advance Karolinska Institutet’s position at the international forefront of stem cell research and regenerative medicine.”

Growing research fields

Regenerative medicine and stem cell research are two rapidly growing research fields in which revolutionary scientific advances have been made over the past few years and in which high medical hopes are being pinned on their ability to cure disease. Stem cell research is about understanding how the body’s immature cells work, and how they mature to become specialised cells, such as nerve or muscle cells.

Regenerative medicine is about replacing damaged or lost tissue with new cells produced from stem cells cultivated in the laboratory, or stem cells that can be activated in vivo to develop into the desired cell type. Today, these technologies are used in bone marrow grafts for patients with leukaemia and anaemia diseases, and skin grafts for patients with severe burns. But there is good reason to assume that regenerative medicine will play an important role in the future within a wide range of medical fields for which there is no effective treatment, such as neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s), diabetes, spinal injury and myocardial infarction.

About the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

The foundation is one of Sweden’s largest research financiers. It was founded on 19 December 1917 when bank director K A Wallenberg and his wife Alice Wallenberg made a donation of SEK 20 million to be managed by Stockholms Enskilda Bank on behalf of the foundation. Knut and Alice Wallenberg continued to build up the foundation through a series of donations for three decades, during which time they gradually transferred over most of their accumulated assets. According to its statutes, the foundation’s main purpose is to promote scientific research and education or studies furthering the interests of the nation through the provision of direct grants or of grants to the appropriate institutes.