Anton A. A. Smith

Research leader Anton A. A. Smith from DTU Health Tech receives Sapere Aude grant

Friday 20 Nov 20
by Tom Nervil


Anton A. A. Autzen
Groupleader, Researcher
DTU Health Tech
+45 60 24 95 74

Sapere Aude

The “Sapere Aude Research Leaders” grant is especially aimed at talented young researchers, who are ready to lead more people in a research project on a high international level.

Read more here.

This year, Independent Research Fund Denmark has granted Sapere Aude funds to a number of research leaders including Researcher Anton A.A. Smith from DTU Health Tech for the project “Immunogene Polymer-Lipid Nanodiscs”.

In Anton A.A. Smith’s project, the aim is to create a cancer vaccine from cancer cells, in order to train the immune system to recognize certain types of cancer cells. This will be done by gently introducing surface markers from cancer cells to the immune system via a disc from the cancer’s cell membrane, also called nanodiscs. “In my previous research, I have developed a type of drug that can make discs of cell membranes in such a way that the surface markers from the cell membranes end in nanodiscs. By decorating these discs with structures which resemble components from virus, the immune system is stimulated to react on the cancer markers in the disc. The goal is to transform tumour biopsies into personal cancer vaccines”.

Drive to create

Anton A. A. Smith says to Independent Research Fund Denmark ” I have always been a bit of an inventor and had the drive to create. It doesn´t take a lot to enthuse me, and I find great satisfaction in researching different fields, in order to then combine their strategies and techniques, and have everything fit together. The idea for this project struck me while working on two completely unrelated studies. I realized the concepts could fit together, and it would allow me to create the foundation of an interdisciplinary research group across immunology, chemistry, and molecular biology. I only got more excited as I developed the idea, and realized the broad perspectives it might have”.

New way to create vaccines

The project inhabits many technical challenges for the chemical platform Anton A. A. Smith has developed to create nanodiscs.

“It has to be modified a bit, and I must be confident that it still works after these adjustments. Hereafter comes the part of developing the vaccine which must also be combined with some existing techniques in cancer immunology. There is a long way to go but if it all works out, I will have a new method of creating vaccines especially suited for cancer diseases”, Anton A. A. Smith says.

For the benefit of society

The goal is to create more tools for the development of vaccines, especially within cancer immunotherapy but also again vira. “It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of vaccines for society, and cancer is still one of the most frequent causes of death. Furthermore, the project will generate tools which may be useful in studies of membrane bound proteins. So there are evident medical applications but also perspectives within basic research of molecular chemistry”, Anton A.A. Smith says.

Generates new possibilities within research

The Sapere Aude program enables Anton A.A. Smith to start a research group in Denmark. “Over the past 4 years, where I have conducted my research abroad, I have formed a vision of the type of research and research group I would like to create, when I returned home. Therefore, it is a great honour to receive Sapere Aude and get the opportunity to create my own research group. The project will be the basis for my future research within (bio) materials science, immunology, chemistry and molecular biology, Anton A.A. Smith says.


(Portrait photo by Tariq Mikkel Kahn, DFF)


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