Skou Award winner: I say no thanks if my gut feeling is wrong
Assistant Professor Anne Troldborg is not like most research talents. She divides her time equally between research and the patients that the research will hopefully benefit, and she is a master of the art of cooperation and getting the best out of others. These are some of the reasons why Anne Troldborg receives the Skou Award this year.
When the phone rang in the office of the Skou Building one late afternoon shortly before the summer holidays, and Vice-Dean for Research Hans Erik Bøtker was at the other end of the line, Anne Troldborg was in her own words a bit dumbfounded.
“Hans Erik told me that I was receiving the Skou Award for 2022. We talked a bit about the practicalities in relation to the award ceremony and about the research that the award honours. It was all very down to earth. And then he suggested that I go home and drink a glass of wine with my husband to celebrate,” she says.
Facts about Anne Troldborg
- Anne Troldborg graduated as a medical doctor from Aarhus University in 2007, completed her PhD at the same place in 2017, and has just completed the medical specialist training programme in internal medicine and rheumatology.
- She is considering using the DKK 100,000 that comes with the Skou Award for activities that the foundations do not wish to fund, such as international networking activities for herself and some of the group’s PhD students.
- She has published 46 scientific articles, has been cited more than 1,000 times, and has an H-index of 13.
- She works on several aspects of autoimmune rheumatological diseases, and is a co-founder of the biotech company AimVion, which is developing an anti-inflammatory peptide for rheumatological diseases and is working on a novel technology that is patented by Anne Troldborg and her partners.
- According to Jørgen Frøkiær, she is a major organisational talent who has recently been appointed chair of the National Treatment Guidelines in Rheumatology (the NBV Committee) by the Danish Rheumatological Society.
- She is working to introduce refinements to the established protein measurement methods which have been shown to be significantly better than those currently used in clinical practice. The methods are currently being tested for clinical use by a large international collaborative project.
- Together with Professor Thomas Vorup-Jensen from the Department of Biomedicine, she is in the process of developing nano-technological methods that could contribute to completely new forms of serological diagnosis for autoimmune diseases. A patent has also been filed for this.
- She has a new project in the pipeline in which she will collate cohorts and biobanks on pregnant patients with autoimmune diseases.
- She was born in 1977 and raised in Odder.
- She lives in Hasle in Aarhus, together with her husband Sarkis, who is marketing manager at SkatePro, and their two daughters, Kirsten, 14, and Klara, 10.
- She is a self-confessed book fanatic and scuba diver who loves rambling. Most recently, she walked more than 200 kilometres on the Camino de Santiago with her family during the summer holidays.
We all want to be seen, don’t we?
In Anne Troldborg’s world, however, being honoured with the faculty’s biggest talent award is not an everyday occurrence.
“It’s just amazing. I am very happy and very proud. Some of the university’s most talented research directors have chosen me, and it feels like a huge endorsement of the path I’ve chosen to take with my research,” says this year’s winner, who feels reminded of the wish of children to be seen.
“You know how your kids say ‘Look at me, Mum, look at me!’? I think all of us, though of course in a more subdued way than in childhood, long to be seen and recognised for what we do. And I can only say that you really feel seen when the Vice-dean for Research calls you up with a message like that. I’m just so grateful,” she says.
Anne Troldborg is a specialist in internal medicine and rheumatology, and she is distinguished by her internationally recognised research on the innate immune system and its role in autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
Dedicated translational researcher with great potential
“Anne Troldborg is a dedicated translational researcher who has managed to identify new immunological areas and methods that can benefit patients, while at the same time using the complex disease Lupus as a model to describe new mechanisms in the immune system. It’s very impressive,” says Department Head Jørgen Frøkiær, who nominated Anne Troldborg for the faculty’s biggest talent award.
“I divide my time between clinical practice and research, because that contributes to qualifying my work in both areas. Everyone is different and does things differently. For me, it’s natural to combine basic research with my shifts at the hospital, where I treat patients who have exactly the same diseases that I’m researching. That makes sense,” says Anne Troldborg, who recently joined a tenure track at the Department of Biomedicine and thus has split employment between two of the faculty’s departments and Aarhus University Hospital, and continues:
“What role does the innate immune system play in the development of diseases? Immunology – that’s what fascinates me most. The fact that there is so much that we still don’t understand, and such great potential to generate new knowledge about how the human body works.”
Going by gut feeling – not by CV
While it was never Anne Troldborg’s dream to become a researcher, today she couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and the work is almost as much a hobby to her as a livelihood.
“A research career is rarely something you plan in upper secondary school, but when, as a young doctor, I took up an introductory position at the Department of Rheumatology, my fate was almost sealed. I enjoyed myself so much and was fascinated by the research I got to do. Then, when I wrote a PhD protocol and received a scholarship with Professor Steffen Thiel as supervisor, I was hooked. From then on, I knew I would work very hard to be allowed to stay in this world. So I did,” she says, and elaborates:
“It was exciting. Steffen Thiel’s research group was hugely inspiring, with input from many different academic fields. Steffen generously shared his international network, and I was given time to try out my own ideas. I’m very grateful for that.”
Career-wise, Anne Troldborg has always followed her gut instinct and worked hard and selflessly. There were never any polished five-year plans.
“I don’t know how other young researchers navigate their careers, but my gut feeling always has to be right – otherwise it doesn’t work for me. As a researcher, I’m quite prepared to say no to offers and opportunities if they feel wrong. Even if they might have looked good in my CV,” she says.
I feel proud when my work makes a difference for patients
If you ask this year’s award winner what she is particularly proud of, she mentions the SLEDAN network – a register of data, blood tests and a biobank for Lupus patients, which she has helped to set up. Department Head Jørgen Frøkiær also highlights this in his nomination for the award:
“The patient’s perspective and participation have always been at the heart of Anne Troldborg’s research. This is both admirable and important. In this respect, Anne’s unique talent particularly stands out in connection with the establishment of the national collaboration project SLEDAN. When you work with a relatively rare disease such as Lupus, it is essential to gather knowledge from as representative a number of patients as possible, and to include the patients’ assessment of their own disease in the overall assessment of how they are doing. The establishment of the SLEDAN platform has created that framework, and Anne very much deserves the credit for that,” says Jørgen Frøkiær, and continues:
“It is characteristic of Anne that she is good at seeing opportunities rather than limitations. We saw an excellent example of this in connection with the shutdown of our research labs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In collaboration with her colleagues at the department, Anne quickly established the COPANARD cohort, through which they followed 400 patients with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis from the start of the pandemic, in order to examine both the psychological and physical consequences of the lockdown for patients: What might the consequences be for patients if they got an infection, and how would the side effects and responses to the new vaccines be for patients undergoing immunotherapy?”.
Master of collaboration
“Anne Troldborg thrives on collaboration with others in general; she appreciates her colleagues and partners and is able to draw on the skills of others. Her numerous collaborations both locally, nationally and internationally speak for themselves, and she is always happy to help her colleagues get started with protocol writing, articles and so on, without necessarily having to be part of the project herself. It is both generous and selfless of her, and her sense of wonder and curiosity is infectious and inspires others. I am very pleased that we are able to honour Anne with the new research award this year,” Jørgen Frøkiær concludes.
For Anne Troldborg, receiving the faculty’s biggest talent award is something very special – an award that you cannot apply for yourself, and which only six researchers before her have received.
“Motivation has never been lacking in my work. The same goes for fighting spirit. But this prize certainly adds something extra. I’m very proud and grateful. And I’m pleased that I’m not the one who had to choose just one young researcher from such a strong field. There are so many talented researchers here. It must be a very difficult selection process, and I still don’t think I’ve quite realised that it fell out to my advantage,” she says.
Invitation to the award ceremony
The Jens Christian Skou Award will be formally presented at 1:00 pm on Friday 14 October 2022, where Anne Troldborg will hold a celebration address on her research into autoimmune diseases.
The faculty invites everyone to attend an informal reception with snacks and a glass of wine immediately following the award ceremony. This will be open to everyone who registers via AU’s webshop. The final deadline for registration is 30 September 2022.
About the Jens Christian Skou Award
The Skou award is presented annually to a researcher in the field of health science who has shown extraordinary talent within his or her field of research, and who is both creative and productive.
The award is named after Jens Christian Skou, who received the Nobel Prize in 1997 and is still a source of inspiration for young researchers. Every year, Health awards the prize at around the time of Jens Christian Skou’s birthday on 8 October.
The following researchers at Health have previously received the Skou award:
- 2021: Morten Schmidt: Skou Award winner: Talent is something you have to earn
- 2020: Nicolai Juul Birkbak: Evolution nerd receives talent award named after Nobel Prize winner
- 2019: Ebbe Bødtkjer: Talented biomedical researcher receives distinguished award
- 2018: Maiken Stilling: Clinician with unique research talent receives the 2018 Skou Award
- 2017: Simon Glerup: Extraordinary research talent receives the Jens Chr. Skou award
- 2016: Trine Hyrup Mogensen: Exceptionally talented researcher receives the Jens Chr. Skou award
You can read more about the Jens Chr. Skou award in the article New award at Health to honour research talents.
Assistant Professor, Consultant and PhD Anne Troldborg PhD
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine, Department of Biomedicine and
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Rheumatology
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