8 March 2021

UCPH researchers receive prestigious prizes from the American Diabetes Association


Two researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Jens Juul Holst and Juleen R. Zierath, receive prestigious prizes from the American Diabetes Association. Jens Juul Holst receives the Banting Medal for his groundbreaking research, while Juleen R. Zierath receives the Harold Rifkin Award to honour her outstanding service in the cause of diabetes.

Jens Juul Holst og Juleen Zierath.
Photos by Ricky John Molloy og Aske Rif Torbensen.

Professor Jens Juul Holst and Professor Juleen R. Zierath from the University of Copenhagen both receive awards from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which honour individuals who have made a special contribution to the international fight against diabetes.

Jens Juul Holst is Professor at the Department of Biomedical Sciences and, since the mid-1980s, has been among the very best scientists in the field. In 1986, he discovered the hormone GLP-1, which has led to the development of medicine for treating diabetes and obesity. Throughout his career, his special clinical focus has contributed to the development of drugs that are indispensable for diabetics today.

As one of the most cited researchers in Europe, he has more than 3,500 annual citations and more than 1,800 publications in scientific articles and, at the age of 75, remains an active researcher.

Jens Juul Holst receives the ADA’s highest award, the Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement. The award is distributed once a year to individuals who have made significant scientific contributions to diabetes research throughout their career.  

“Receiving the award is a great honour. Almost surreal. This is the world championship in diabetes, and it thus puts me in the company of some great people. I am not a diabetologist in a classical sense, as I have focussed on the metabolism of the disease. So being included here is a great recognition,” he says. 

Jens Juul Holst and his team of researchers are currently focussing on non-surgical gastric bypass for treating obesity and diabetes.

Juleen R. Zierath

Juleen R. Zierath is Executive Director and Professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR), and she researches clinical integrative physiology at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.

As the former president of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, editor of the journal Diabetologia, the initiator of the European Diabetes Forum and the Young Diabetes Academy, Juleen R. Zierath has spent her time outside the university contributing to the general understanding and education on diabetes.

She receives the Harold Rifkin Award, which honours her outstanding service in the cause of diabetes that has been performed with an international perspective and international impact.

”I am dedicated to getting stakeholders, organisations, researchers and industry to work together to determine how best to serve the overall purpose, which is to improve treatment for diabetics and increase public attention to the disease,” she says.

“I believe we have a responsibility to society, and we can all help make a difference,” she says.

Aside from her personal commitment, her groundbreaking research has laid the groundwork for the development of type 2 diabetes treatment. Among other things, she has helped identify the interaction between insulin, glucose and muscle cells in healthy people and people suffering from type 2 diabetes.

With the award, Juleen R. Zierath receives USD 3,000, whereas Jens Juul Holst receives USD 20,000.

The award ceremony was supposed to take place at a conference in Boston. Instead, the awards will be presented at online ceremonies held on 25-29 June 2021.


Jens Juul Holst
+45 35 32 70 56

Juleen R. Zierath
+45 35 33 70 48