Gå til indhold
You are here: Home The Ministry The Minister Speeches OLD speeches 2013 Brain research is hot

Brain research is hot

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at the Brain Prize award ceremony 2013 2 May 2013 in the Black Diamond, Copenhagen.

Check against delivery.

Your Royal Highness, Ambassadors, Ladies and gentlemen, friends of science.

It is an honour to be here today for the Brain Prize 2013 ceremony.

It is a great day. And it is a great celebration. Allow me to begin by congratulating the six eminent scientists awarded today.

Your award-winning research shows the value of long persistent work, multidisciplinarity - and the value of transnational cooperation. It's a pleasure to be in Copenhagen and celebrate the award of the Brain Prize to one Austrian, two Americans and three Germans.

The cost of brain disorders

The weight is around 1.4 kilo. It is made up of about 75 percent water. And it consists of about 100 billion neurons.

The most complex structure in the universe lies inside each and every one of us.

The brain is providing the basis of our personality, thoughts, feelings and other human characteristics.

But the brain is also the origin of many chronically disabling diseases - like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer, epilepsy, schizophrenia and ADHD. For those affected by these diseases it is a tragedy – for the individual and their family.

For society as a whole it is very costly. And it places an increasing strain on healthcare systems, as the population ages.

On the homepage of the European Brain Council there is a small display that every second counts the cost due to disorders in the brain in Europe since January this year.

I recently checked the number. From January to May the first - the cost was more than 255 billion Euros. Data from The World Health Organization suggest that brain disorders cause one-third of the burden of all diseases.

Brain disorders are one of the grand challenges in the healthcare system of our time.

The breakthrough of the decade

The human brain is a mystery. We need to unlock that mystery. And we are getting wiser on the brain.

Things have really been moving fast in neuroscience the last 20-30 years.

Not least fuelled by new technology and scanning techniques.

The development of optogenetics by the six award winning scientist here today is a revolutionary technique which will provide us with new, fundamental knowledge of the functions of the brain.

Optogenetics provides new analysis to investigate diseases of the brain and will play a significant role in the understanding of brain disorders.

As our understanding of the brain increases, it brings new insights, new opportunities and new treatments.

It is no coincidence that the international journal, Science, has called Optogenetics the breakthrough of the decade.

Brain research is hot

Neuroscience is one of the hottest fields in science right now.

Last month President Barack Obama proposed a $100 million mission to begin mapping the activity in the human brain.

The American neuropsychiatrist and Nobel Prize winner, Eric Kandel, says in that connection: This is more ambitious than going to the moon. This is like Columbus discovering America.

The European Union is also ambitious.

The European Union is about to adopt the world’s greatest collaborative research program.

And an important part of that program will be research in health.

In Denmark we have also raised the budget for research – and also for research in life sciences.

The Danish government is firmly convinced that investing in research is a crucial prerequisite for providing for our future growth, for our welfare and for our wellbeing.

And we are happy that the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation is contributing in such an eminent way.

An accompanying outreach programme

The Brain Prize provides good exposure of Denmark. It draws attention to the fact we prioritise research.

That we have some world-class research environments, especially within neuroscience.

And that we have some companies that can assert themselves globally.

Prizes are important. When we award prizes, we are showing recognition.

We do so to highlight people who have excelled and can be role models for others.

It is important to encourage celebration of science, so that we may inspire young people to follow this path.

Earlier this morning in Aarhus, His Royal Highness and I, opened the Danish Science Festival.

In the course of the next days, the festival will invite Danes across the country to meet scientists and learn more about their work.

To nurture new talent, we need to inspire. As does the Brain Prize.

Because the Brain Prize is not only giving recognition to six eminent scientists. It is also boosting neuroscience in general. And it is boosting research in Denmark.

And our six winners are not only receiving a prize, but also a responsibility. The prize-winners will be actively involved in an accompanying outreach programme.

The outreach programme will be conducted in close collaboration with University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and University of Southern Denmark.

And it will involve lectures, master classes, seminars, summer schools and exchange programmes for researchers.

The outreach programme will draw significant attention in Denmark and at Danish Universities. So we cannot thank the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation enough for your focus on brain research and its outcomes.

And not least for bringing such outstanding international scientists to Denmark.

Gero Miesenböck, Ernst Bamberg, Peter Hegemann, Georg Nagel, Ed Boyden and Karl Deisseroth.

What you have achieved is in fact unimaginable. Congratulations once again – your work is as inspiring as it is complex and I have to say; we are very happy that we will be seeing much more of you in Denmark.

Thank you.

last modified Dec 03, 2015