Top obesity researcher relocates to University of Copenhagen
Professor Ruth Loos joins the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR) where scientists are working together to uncover the mechanisms that underpin metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. The move, which sees her establish a group and take on the role of Vice Executive Director, is financed by a seven-year DKK50 million Laureate Research Grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation
After a decade in New York City, Belgian researcher and Professor Ruth Loos is returning to Europe to continue her research at the University of Copenhagen. She makes the move after securing a seven-year DKK 50 million Laureate Research Grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation – grants that are specifically designed to attract top international research talent to Denmark.
Ruth Loos has almost two decades experience researching the genetic causes of obesity. In 2005 she joined the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Metabolic Science, and in 2011 crossed the Atlantic to join the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where she is the Director of the Genetics of Obesity and Related Metabolic Traits Program, in the Charles R. Bronfman Institute of Personalized Medicine. She is also a member of the steering committee of the GIANT consortium where she has played a central role in discovering 500 genes associated with obesity.
This spring she will join the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR) at the University of Copenhagen as a Group Leader and Vice Executive Director. The Center was established in 2010 to carry out basic research into metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Jumped at the chance to move to Denmark
Ruth Loos explains that CBMR’s unique interdisciplinary and collaborative culture presents a unique opportunity to continue her research identifying genes that predispose people to obesity.
“During a sabbatical year, I worked at CBMR, where I was surrounded by researchers whose main focus was on obesity and type 2 diabetes. CBMR provides an outstanding environment of world-renowned scientists with complementary expertise in metabolic research. So, when I got the opportunity to join this research community with a generous Novo Nordisk Foundation Laureate Research grant, I naturally jumped at the chance to move to Denmark,” explains Ruth Loos.
Dean Ulla Wewer from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is proud that the University has succeeded again at attracting top international talent, as it is the fourth Laureate Research Grant that has been awarded to the University of Copenhagen in recent months.
“It makes me enormously happy that professor Ruth Loos has decided to continue her research career at the University of Copenhagen. Not only does it strengthen our biomedical research at the Faculty, it is also a significant success in our mission to develop an attractive international research environment,” says Dean Ulla Wewer
Turning genetic insights into better treatment
Ruth Loos has made significant contributions to identifying associations between genetic variations and the risk of becoming obese. In an ongoing study of two million people, she and a team of researchers examine both the genetic risk of obesity and genetic factors related to the body’s fat distribution and other obesity-related traits.
“By knowing the genes involved in these traits, we aim to understand the underlying biology of body weight regulation, which may help improve the guidelines for preventing weight gain. In some cases, the genes may be targets for drugs to treat obesity,” says Ruth Loos.
Ruth Loos is now planning an ambitious trial to monitor a variety of metabolic indicators for 14 days in 1,000 people, including their blood glucose, physical activity, food intake, and composition of gut bacteria. She hopes that the detailed information might help researchers identify patterns in people’s metabolic response to foods and physical activity and to examine whether these patterns differ between people prone to gain weight from others who are not. This knowledge may lead to more personalized diet and exercise recommendations.
“Although my work has mainly focused on the genetic component of obesity, this is not my only field of interest. My goal over the next seven years is to identify what factors, genetic and non-genetic, makes some people more prone to becoming overweight or developing type 2 diabetes, and to use this information to improve treatment and prevention,” says Ruth Loos.
CBMR’s Executive Director Juleen Zierath welcomes Ruth Loos to the Center, where she will join a community of 25 complementary research groups.
“I am delighted that Ruth has agreed to join us at CBMR, bringing with her more than two decades of research experience into the genetic causes of obesity. She is an enormous asset to the Center, and will join our team of international researchers who are working together to uncover the mechanisms that underpin metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.”
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