23 June 2015

Pól Martin Bendix receives Sapere Aude grant


Associate professor of biophysics at the Niels Bohr Institute, Pól Martin Bendix has received a Sapere Aude grant from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation’s special research career programme for research leaders. The grant is for 7 million kroner.

Pól Martin Bendix

Pól Martin Bendix has received a Sapere Aude grant from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation. The grant is for 7 million kroner.

Normally they say that it’s the inside that counts and that the outside is less important! But for Pól Martin Bendix’s research, the outside is also very important. He explores how the shape of a cell and its surface are of vital importance when our cells are affected by diseases – for example, in the case of influenza or cancer metastasis, special structures form on the surface of the cell, which promote the development of the disease.

Pól Martin Bendix was born and grew up in the Faroe Islands, where he took the first years of the physics programme after secondary school. He then moved to Copenhagen, where he received his Masters in physics and then a PhD in biophysics from the Niels Bohr Institute. He worked at both Harvard and Stanford during his PhD studies and as a postdoc.

“It is especially the physical understanding of biological systems that I am interested in. I want to understand the underlying mechanisms that occur in the cells and perhaps find a way to prevent the spread of diseases,” explains Pól Martin Bendix.

The strange form of sick cells

The research project will examine how form and function interact with the organisation of fats and proteins on the cell surface with a special emphasis on the form changes that occur in diseased cells.

He studies, for example, the structural changes that help cancer cells to invade healthy tissue and thus spread to other places in the body. There are some spear-like stalks on the surface of metastatic cancer cells that make cancer cells mobile and allow them to spread.

When diseased cells infect other cells with a socalled progeny  virus there are also changes in the surface of the cells. The new viruses are formed as small bulges on the cell surface and are then released to be absorbed by health cells.

The experiments are conducted in the laboratory where living cells are studied using high-resolution microscopy and they will also measure the dynamics on the cell surface with ultra-sensitive optical equipment for measuring forces.

“My Sapere Aude grant means that I can now continue my research. This is a unique opportunity to conduct independent research in subjects that I am very passionate about and I am very excited about that,” says Pól Martin Bendix.

The Sapere Aude grant is for four years and is for 7 million kroner. This covers both his salary for the period and the hiring of two PhD students. Moreover, he will have the opportunity to create a new collaboration between Danish and Swedish researchers who are experts in virus and cancer relevant proteins.