International collaboration to consolidate Denmark’s leading position

A DKK 30 million Niels Bohr Professorship enables the National Centre for Register-based Research to extend its collaboration with one of the world’s leading researchers in schizophrenia.

Vitamin D deficiency in the foetal stage is probably one of the reasons why some people have an increased risk of developing the serious illness of schizophrenia later in life. This was the conclusion reached in 2010 by a group of researchers in a landmark research result.

One of the driving forces behind this hypothesis was Professor John McGrath from the University of Queensland. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading researches in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, and for a number of years, he has been collaborating closely with the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, which also co-authored the result. With a DKK 30 million grant from the Danish National Research Foundation, the National Centre for Register-based Research now aims to strengthen its collaboration with the international top researcher.

“Danish researchers have for a long time been at the forefront of psychiatric epidemiology, and through an extended collaboration with Professor John McGrath, we can ensure that Denmark maintains its leading position within the field,” says Centre Director Preben Bo Mortensen at the National Centre for Register-based Research.

Will speed up results that may lead to prevention
Diseases such as schizophrenia and depression have serious consequences for public health, and thus epidemiologists are looking for environmental and genetic causes of mental illnesses to allow for the development of preventive efforts. “The results concerning vitamin D deficiency are promising, and it is important to accelerate further research and take valuable preventive measures on the basis of these results. Together with John McGrath, we will continue our vitamin D research based on the theory that vitamin D deficiency may be a triggering factor for other mental illnesses,” says Preben Bo Mortensen.

The unique data from Danish registers, both the CPR register and the Danish Psychiatric Central Register, contribute to making Denmark attractive to epidemiologists and register researchers. This also goes for John McGrath, who has previously benefitted from the quality of the Danish register data.

Apart from specific research projects, the Niels Bohr Professorship will also be used to nurture the next generation of Danish researchers, who among other things are given the opportunity to visit the University of Queensland and Harvard University. The project will also ensure that Danish researchers within the field become part of a large Harvard-based network of psychiatric epidemiologists from 29 countries and that they will be working with the world’s leading researchers within the field.