Leadership Change at Novo Nordisk Foundation

By Hakon Heimer

  Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen

24 February 2021. One of the world’s largest private funders of biomedical research, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk Foundation (NNF), has appointed a new CEO. Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, the new CEO, comes from Novo Nordisk A/S, the major commercial interest owned by NNF, where he was executive vice president, head of R&D, and chief scientific officer.

Thomsen takes over from Birgitte Nauntofte, who is stepping down as CEO on March 1. In her 12 years at the helm, NNF grew from three employees and under €30 million in grants in 2009 to 211 employees and approximately €700 million in grants in 2020.

It can come as a surprise that Denmark is home to one of the world’s largest charitable foundations. NNF has long been the major private funder of biomedical research in Denmark. For example, its funding allowed the country to establish a national genome center.

          Birgitte Nauntofte

It remains to be seen what the change will mean for NNF’s funding priorities, but in an interview with a Danish newspaper, Thomsen indicated that there may be a more international outlook. The foundation may spend more time working together with other large foundations—the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, in particular—on health research and other funding priorities, though still focusing primarily on Denmark (Berlingske, February 21, 2021, paywall, Danish).

Among Thomsen’s senior staff are two new hires: Chief of Staff Søren Nedergaard comes from his position as deputy director and head of the Rector’s Office at the University of Copenhagen. Serving as a senior advisor will be former permanent secretary at the Danish health ministry, Per Okkels (Altinget February 23, 2-21, paywall, Danish).

Image credits: Novo Nordisk Foundation