ODIN invites researchers from Technical Sciences to open innovation with pharmaceutical companies

Aarhus University and a number of Danish and international drug manufacturers are working together in ground-breaking, open research collaboration, ODIN, which the Novo Nordisk Foundation is supporting with DKK 54.5 mill. (EUR 7.2 mill.). The project involves scientists from the three faculties Tech, Nat and Health, and data and results from the collaboration will be made available to everyone, openly and free of charge. The ambition of the project is to exploit collective knowledge from all the researchers participating in ODIN and, in the long term, to forge innovation to benefit patients, industry and society.

[Translate to English:] Portrætfoto af Jens Vinge Nygaard
[Translate to English:] Jens Vinge Nygaard var med til at udvikle ODIN-konceptet. Foto: Lars Kruse, AU Foto
[Translate to English:] Portrætfoto af Marie Louise Conradsen
[Translate to English:] Marie Louise Conradsen har så småt indledt en turne til de tre fakulteters institutter for at ”rekruttere” forskere til samarbejdet. Foto: AU

ODIN is an abbreviation of the Open Discovery Innovation Network, and in this context, ‘innovation’ covers both the way in which researchers and companies collaborate, and the results of their collaboration.

ODIN is a pilot project, and over the next three years it will be a free space in which the participating researchers and companies can collaborate without the restrictive framework of the patent rules.

They can do this by focusing their collaboration on the early phases of the development of new drugs, including identifying biomarkers, and they can generate shared knowledge that, although it may not be worth patenting, could become a building block in the development of future drugs.   Another focus of the collaboration will be to understand how new drugs work at cell level.


The collaboration will lead to faster and more efficient pharmaceuticals innovation globally by forging a strong foundation of basic knowledge and tools that everyone can access: including competing companies. 

Everyone is welcome


So far, the network consists of researchers from Natural Sciences, Technical Sciences and Health, as well as nine industrial partners, including Novo Nordisk, Leo Pharma, Lundbeck, Boehringer Ingelheim and Nordic Bioscience. However, any pharmaceutical company is welcome to sign up for free.

The DKK 54.5 mill. (EUR 7.2 mill.) from the Novo Nordisk Foundation will finance the administration of ODIN and the university's part of the research projects for three years. The companies will contribute knowledge, technology, and materials (such as screening libraries), for example, as well as knowledge about automation and so on.

"ODIN allows our researchers and businesses to collaborate on complex problems that they might not be able to handle on their own. The platform offers an opportunity to draw on many intellects from different disciplines and companies, so that we can quickly transfer methods known from a research field to new problems in another field, or find entirely new ways of examining 'old' challenges,” explains Marie Louise Conradsen, who is the head of open science at the Nat-Tech faculties and who is leading the ODIN project.

The researchers are employed at Aarhus University, not ODIN, and they are participating voluntarily because of their academic interest. However, participants will not be allowed to entirely run loose. A joint committee will assess each project before giving it the green light and funding. For example, projects must not only benefit individual businesses.


Marie Louise Conradsen is setting up a secretariat with three employees, and she has tentatively started a tour of departments at the three faculties to tell researchers about the possibilities in ODIN. 

Vinge ready for collaboration

Associate Professor Jens Vinge Nygaard from the Department of Engineering sees great perspectives in the ODIN open research collaboration. He recalls experience from AU's first open science project, SPOMAN, in which researchers and industry collaborated in full openness, with focus on new smart plastic materials.

"Open Science is version 2.0 classical science. It’s based on the values of good research and on peer review, but digitalisation also plays a crucial role. It’s not just a question of having our scientific publications made available to the public. It’s also about reusing the scientific data behind our publications in new contexts," says Jens Vinge Nygaard.

In his opinion, one crucial strength of the ODIN project is that it crosses the faculties of Health, Natural Sciences and Technical Sciences, so that, regardless of their organisational affiliation, individual researchers can contribute relevant knowledge to the issues in ODIN.


“And we want to get this knowledge into play. For example, I know that my own research into understanding the elastic properties of tissue and cells can have a decisive influence on our understanding of how a drug spreads and works in the body. I’m convinced that, by working with others instead of working alone, I can gain better insight and contribute to developing better new methodologies," he adds.


Marie Louise Conradsen,  Head of Open Science

Mail: mlco@au.dk

Phone: +45 9350 8496