Tove Fall Receives the The Royal Society of Sciences’ Thuréus Award


Portrait photograph of Tove Fall.

The 2021 Thuréus Award for natural history and medicine goes to Uppsala Diabetes Centre’s Tove Fall, Professor in molecular epidemiology at Uppsala University.

The Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala was founded in 1710 and is Sweden’s oldest learned society. One of its purposes is to promote exemplary Swedish research through annually awarding outstanding researchers. The Thuréus award was established in 1971 following a donation by Lilly and Sven Thuréus. The 2021 award in the natural history and medicine category has gone to Professor Tove Fall at the Institution for Medical Sciences at Uppsala university for her studies in Diabetes, Heart and Vascular Diseases.

“Of course, I am incredibly honoured. Recipients were invited to meet and speak in front of the society at Universitetshuset, so I also got to listen to the three laureates for the other disciplines. It was very nice and educational”, says Tove Fall.

Her research has looked at new ways of monitoring individuals over time using databases from previous clinical studies. Early changes in blood composition can be seen in those who develop diabetes and, similarly, the intestinal flora produces substances that may influence obesity and diabetes. Data from existing biobanks is generally best suited for researching Type 2 Diabetes. Type 1 is encountered less frequently and is therefore better assessed through directed observational studies, preferably as early as possible and with the help of general population registries. Nevertheless, the two approaches can be combined to complement each other. Currently, Tove Fall is working on a study of 10 000 people that are part of the national project SCAPIS. In collaboration with Lund University, she aims to map the correlations between intestinal flora and their different impacts on metabolism, as well as the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Currently, this type of research is really undergoing a golden age. So much has happened in the last 20 years when it comes to measuring techniques, available observational studies and biobanks. Furthermore, we obviously have a completely different computational capacity at our disposal. Today, we can make measurements that we could only dream about two decades ago – these can also be undertaken relatively quickly and affordably. We have the materials, the technology, and the methods, so now is the time for breakthroughs”, says Tove Fall.

Complementing with New Competence

Tove Fall is part of the management team for the Uppsala Diabetes Centre and is especially interested in cross-disciplinary collaborations. Finding the right collaborators is an important challenge – individuals that may enrich the projects with expertise that is different from her own.

“It is always more fun to work together and in this respect Uppsala Diabetes Centre has been a valuable resource. For example, I have met Meena Daivadanam who is a Medical Doctor and Associate Professor of Public Health. She is the driving force behind a very interesting project which I now get to be a part of. It is about the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes in socioeconomically exposed groups. Meena will contribute with skills in identifying individuals from a cohort who risk falling ill with Type 2 Diabetes, and I will find ways to analyse the effects of the engagement through biological samples. In conjunction with COVID-19, I work a lot with spatial analyses where we assess geographical areas. This will be useful in the current project. We have also built a very good working relationship with the Uppsala Region that will be of great help”, says Tove Fall.

A key concern of the Uppsala Diabetes Centre is to provide a nurturing environment for junior researchers, and Tove Fall believes that the upcoming research school will be an important step in the right direction. New opportunities to meet fellow researchers will be available for PhD students and others who are interested in Diabetes. She also emphasizes how important it is to be inclusive:

“New researchers do not always have a large network, so everyone must have the opportunity to present their work. This way, new places for building connections will open, and those with less experience receive better conditions for carrying out their research.”

Anton Nyström

Photograph: Mikael Wallerstedt

Last modified: 2022-01-03