Meet Ulf Simonsen

Portrait of Ulf Simonsen
Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Photo

“Currently my research group investigates the role of a newly discovered selenium containing protein for endothelial dysfunction in hypertension.”

Better endothelial function – better medicine tomorrow

To understand, invent or improve drugs, so that we get better medicines tomorrow. This is the main purpose of professor Ulf Simonsen’s life in pharmacology. Especially the cardiovascular field, which is the main cause of morbidity and death in the Western Countries, has fascinated Ulf Simonsen, born 1963.

From the beginning of his research career Ulf Simonsen focused on understanding the effect of risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes for developing dysfunction of the endothelial cell layer, which is an inner ‘lining’ of the blood vessels whose function is a crucial factor in the development of heart disease.

“Currently my research group investigates the role of a newly discovered selenium containing protein for endothelial dysfunction in hypertension,” Ulf Simonsen, who is originally trained as a medical doctor, explains.

“In another project, we have progressed a bit further and discovered a molecule that can turn a bad enzyme into ‘a good guy’ to improve endothelial function and treat cardiovascular complications in diabetes and aging. This principle is very promising and therefore one of my PhD students, Estefano Pinilla, and I together with Aarhus University have patented the principle, and now work to develop new medicine based on this discovery,” he says. 

Ulf Simonsen’s research methods range from cell and tissue studies to investigating drug mechanisms in intact organisms with the aim of understanding the underlying mechanisms as well as finally testing the drug candidate in man. All in collaboration with colleagues from Denmark and abroad.

Pharmacology is by nature a translational science from molecule to patient, and Ulf Simonsen enjoys the collaboration with people in other disciplines, which markedly increases the likelihood for success of the research projects. A good example is the biotech company Initiator Pharma A/S from 2016, which aims for treatment of erectile dysfunction in patients who do not benefit from current treatment.

“Here one of the drug candidates is now tested in man and I find it really exiting to initiate and contribute in the development of a new project,” Ulf Simonsen elaborates.

Portrait of Ulf Simonsen
Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Photo

“Currently my research group investigates the role of a newly discovered selenium containing protein for endothelial dysfunction in hypertension.”