The Novo Nordisk Foundation grants DKK 10 mio to introduce genetics and personalised medicine for improved fertility treatment

Jun 9, 2021

With their RESPOND project, Professors Eva Hoffmann and Anja Pinborg have received DKK 10 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation and its Tandem Programme, which seeks to stimulate the transition of basic research to clinical practice and vice versa.

Human oocyte aging is characterized by a decline in the number of oocytes and their genetic quality. This double hit influences success in fertility treatment, since it can cause ovarian insufficiency (POI) and poor ovarian response (POR), which affect 5% of women in the general population and 20% of female patients in the fertility clinics.

The RESPOND project aims to implement genetic diagnosis as well as early interventions of women at risk of POI and POR. “I am both grateful and exited to have received this grant towards our goal of developing an evidence-based framework for the genetic contribution toward human oocyte aging. Our hope is that having genetic guidance will help determine the best clinical treatment for individual female patients and thereby be an important step towards introducing a personalized medicine approach,” explains Eva Hoffmann who is part of ReproUnion’s challenge 3. In April she was also appointed to a permanent full professorship in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

Part of the RESPOND program is to carry out two clinical trials to screen women with POI and POR respectively, for a combination of rare and common genetic variants in the DNA damage response and metabolic networks, which contribute to oocyte aging.

“Since we are already enrolling infertile women to the ReproUnion Biobank & Infertility Cohort (RUBIC), we spotted the opportunity to ask 400 of these women to participate in the genetic screening as part of their examination,” explains Anja Pinborg, Rigshospitalet, who is part of the ReproUnion team managing the RUBIC project.

The POI and POR patient groups are challenging to treat using conventional IVF that relies on oocyte retrieval after gonadotrophin stimulation. “A new genetic score could prevent excessive treatment and be an initial translational step towards more effective ovarian stimulation regimes for women,” concludes Anja Pinborg.