Diabetes researcher Tove Fall is the recipient of the Leif C. Groop award 2023
Tove Fall became a familiar face during the Covid-19 pandemic when she was often seen in Swedish media talking about the spread and progression of the disease in Sweden. She is also an outstanding diabetes researcher who uses large quantities of data to gain a better understanding of the development of diabetes. Tove Fall is now awarded the Leif C. Groop award for outstanding diabetes research for her work.
Justification for awarding
“Tove Fall at Uppsala University is the recipient of the Leif C. Groop award for outstanding diabetes research 2023 for her significant contributions in the field of molecular epidemiology and the identification of causal pathways contributing to diabetes and atherosclerosis. She has pioneered the field using innovative study designs for causal inference in population-based registry and omics studies.”
The Leif C. Groop award is awarded annually by Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC) to an outstanding researcher in the field of diabetes. This year’s recipient came to know Leif Groop’s research already as a PhD student at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala.
“I am very honoured and it’s particularly exciting to receive an award in Leif Groop’s name. I came into contact with Leif Groop’s work during my PhD studies. A highlight was when I presented my work at a conference in Copenhagen and got to chat with him during a break. That is a fond memory of mine”, says Tove Fall, professor of molecular epidemiology at Uppsala University.
Diabetes in animals
Tove Fall originally trained as a veterinarian and wrote her PhD thesis on the topic of spontaneous diabetes in dogs. She continued her studies of diabetes in animals in different registries and has, for example, together with colleagues investigated if cats and dogs develop the same diseases as their owners based on insurance registry data. They found that dog owners with diabetic dogs presented a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes themselves, compared to owners of non-diabetic dogs. This may be because dog owners and their dogs have similar exercise habits and share the same environment.
“I believe that my research on diabetes in animals has made me aware that disease progression can look different in different species. This means that I’m open to the possibility that there are things that we don’t understand about the disease.”
Large quantities of data
Several of Tove Fall’s research projects on diseases in humans entail analyses of large quantities of data, in combination with studies of important molecules that may be important for the development of diabetes, for example. Recently, she published a paper that shows there is a strong association between intestinal bacteria and metabolites in the blood. The study is based on large-scale analyses of stool and blood samples from participants. An important aim of this type of research is to increase the knowledge about how the intestinal flora affects people’s health. This research is carried out in collaboration with Marju Orho-Melander, research group leader in diabetes and cardiovascular disease at LUDC.
“In future studies, we want to try to understand if some bacteria could be connected with the development of diabetes and insulin resistance. Since I use large amounts of data in my research, I often collaborate with researchers that are experts in different fields”, says Tove Fall.
Disseminating scientific findings
When the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak, Tove Fall contributed by analysing the spread of the disease in Swedish media. Her analyses were often based on data from the COVID Symptom Study Sweden, which is a research collaboration between diabetes researchers at Lund University and Uppsala University. Moving forwards, this research team is investigating the associations between diabetes and long Covid. She is also a member of the Young Academy of Sweden, which is an interdisciplinary academy that works to spread knowledge and inspire children and young people to do research.
“One of our aims is to show children and young people that it is possible to become a scientist in Sweden. It isn’t just old men in white coats that do research. I was fully committed to becoming a small animal vet, but I changed paths and became a scientist instead. Doing research is very exciting, but it’s also important to be persistent and learn how to handle failure”, she says.
Professor Marju Orho-Melander is chair of the award committee that selects the recipient of the Leif C. Groop award. She did not participate in this year’s selection as she has an ongoing research collaboration with Tove Fall.
The Leif C. Groop award for outstanding research
The Leif C. Groop award is awarded annually by Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC) to a young outstanding researcher within the field of diabetes who is active in the Nordic countries. The prize money of 100,000 SEK is awarded for scientific excellence that will benefits patients suffering from diabetes.
The award will be presented in connection with the LUDC DPLU Diabetes research day on February 28 where the recipient will give a lecture.
Leif Groop, born 1947, worked as professor of endocrinology at Lund University from 1993 until retirement and was one of the founding members of Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC). He graduated as a physician at University of Bern, Switzerland, and did his PhD at the University of Helsinki. Leif Groop is globally recognized for his contributions to diabetes research, including pioneering work on genetics and heterogeneity of type 2 diabetes.