Professor Grethe Andersen and associate professor Kim Ryun Drasbek

A new research project – STIMULATE – where basic and clinical researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital will work together to improve ultra-early diagnosis of stroke patients, has received a DKK 10 million grant from The Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Tandem Program that supports translational research collaborations between Basic and Clinical Researchers.

Project title: Ultra-early Stroke diagnostics Implementing novel Multiparametric tests for Acute Treatment decision – STIMULATE

About the project

Ultra-early diagnosis of stroke, originating from either blocked or bleeding blood vessels in the brain, will save time and lead to faster treatment, which is of utmost importance in stroke. Unfortunately, current methods cannot distinguish between stroke types and a reliable diagnosis has to await imaging of the brain at the hospital, delaying the start of treatment.

The STIMULATE project will develop a blood based diagnostic test to distinguish between stroke types. When suffering a stroke, specific nano-particles are released from the stroke area into the blood. Based on these particles, we aim to identify biomarkers that can help diagnose stroke type already in the ambulance, leading to better outcome for the patients.

Professor Grethe Andersen explains why an ultra-early diagnosis is so important:

“Stroke calls for extremely urgent treatment, as brain cells die every second with an untreated stroke. Unfortunately, there is no general treatment for all stroke type as their origin are very different. This means that treatment for one stroke type can be harmful for other stroke types. Therefore, we have to wait for brain imaging at the hospital to diagnose stroke type and give the right treatment. Thus, being able to diagnose stroke in the ambulance will enable treatment initiation already before hospital admission to save brain tissue”.

Associate Professor Kim Ryun Drasbek explains how basic research of extracellular vesicles (EVs) can lead to new diagnostic methods:

“Basic research has revealed that extracellular vesicles (nano sized particles) in the blood displays markers from the cell they were secreted from. These markers also show the status of the secreting cell. This feature can be used for diagnostic purposes and in STIMULATE we will use the extracellular vesicles in the blood originating from the cells affected by stroke to develop a diagnostic test based on a small blood sample”. 

The STIMULATE project will start up in January 2021 and the project runs for a 4 year period. Several local, national and international research collaborators will contribute to the project, and the two recipients of the Novo Nordisk Tandem grant are very excited about the potential for new diagnostic methods leading to a better outcome for stroke patients in Denmark.

Short BIO

The main applicant, Professor Grethe Andersen, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University (AU) & Department of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital (AUH), has a long record within state-of-the-art stroke research including diagnostics and novel treatment assessment that is implemented in her clinical work. In addition Grethe Andersen is head of the Danish Stroke Center at AUH, a high-volume, highly specialized center, with one of the world's most comprehensive and well-organized stroke services and the first center to include acute MRI as standard for all patients under suspicion of stroke. 

The co-applicant, Associate Professor Kim Ryun Drasbek, Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN), AU, is a translational neuroscientist with expertise within extracellular vesicles (EVs), phage display biomarker discovery, and bioinformatics to find diagnostic patterns. Kim Ryun Drasbek heads the Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Lab at CFIN.


Grant: The Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Tandem Programme – Translational research collaboration between Basic and Clinical Researchers

Amount: DKK 9,999,928 

Period: 4 years

Project start: 1 January 2021


Professor Grethe Andersen
Department of Clinical Medicine, AU and Department of Neurology, AUH
+45 2388 6653

Associate Professor Kim Ryun Drasbek
Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN), Aarhus University
+45 30274779