Hasselblad Science is the natural sciences branch of the Hasselblad Foundation. The foundation’s aim is to support both photography and science. In the scientific domain, we award research funding, donations and stipends, and our ambition is to support larger projects of long-term strategic importance in primarily Western Sweden.

Grants 2021

Female Scientists 2021

Alexandra Stubelius, Assistant Professor at the Department of at Chemical Biology/Biology and Biological Engineering at Chalmers and Carolina Guibentif, researcher working in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, are the two recipients of this year’s grants from the Hasselblad Foundation that support female researchers and expanding their qualifications in the natural sciences. The grant provides SEK 1 million and the opportunity to become established as an independent researcher.

Carolina Guibentif

Half of all childhood cancers have a suspected prenatal origin, which limits the possibility to study the cells undergoing the initial mutations, as this happens in utero. In my project, I propose to use human pluripotent stem cell cultures to study these early events, leading to childhood cancer, that take place before birth. Pluripotent stem cells can be cultured in the laboratory indefinitely and can give rise to all cell types in the body.

In this project, I focus on the development of the blood lineage, since some of the mutations found in childhood leukemia (a blood cancer) have been shown to occur before birth. In the developing embryo, with increasing organism size and complexity, the requirements for a circulation system providing oxygen, nutrients, and immunity, also evolve. Hence, the blood system develops in successive “waves”. Multiple early cell maturation waves give rise to different short-lived blood cell populations.

It is still unclear how different blood cell populations are generated in each of these early maturation waves. During my previous research, I was able to define these processes molecularly in a mouse model by using a novel technique, called single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq), where we could measure the expression of every gene in each individual cell of a mouse embryo.

My plan is now to apply the same technique to in vitro differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to blood. I will then be able to identify each intermediate step leading to the production of blood cells from human pluripotent stem cells, and chart the waves of human blood maturation that take place in the dish.

The next step will be to see how these waves of blood maturation are affected when the pluripotent stem cells contain perturbations known to predispose to childhood leukemia. For this, I will examine trisomy 21, the chromosomal abnormality that causes Down syndrome. Down syndrome children have high likelihood to develop acute myeloid leukemia, in a process that is known to start during embryonic development. However, the precise molecular mechanism is still under investigation.

My plan is to apply my approach of scRNAseq to in vitro differentiation, in the laboratory, of pluripotent stem cells towards the blood lineage, this time using pluripotent stem cells with trisomy 21. I will then be able to study how this chromosomal abnormality affects the development of the embryonic blood system, and how it may increase the chances of leukemia onset.

With this project, I will therefore establish a new in vitro platform to study how processes leading to childhood cancer already take place during embryonic development. A better understanding of these molecular processes will help develop novel cancer therapies.


Alexandra Stubelius

Millions of people around the world are suffering from diseases such as arthritis, atherosclerosis, and fatty liver, which all get worse from inflammation, and Alexandra’s research is about developing better therapies for them.

An overactive immune system can attack the body’s own tissues, causing both allergies and chronic diseases. The most common anti-inflammatory drugs used today inhibit all immune functions – even the good defence mechanism and need to be used at high doses. These high doses result in side effects on other organs.

Alexandra Stubelius’ team develops immunomodulating nano-therapeutics, where the drugs can be directed to the right area, at the right concentration, and at the right time.

Alexandra Stubelius team uses three different strategies to develop smarter nanomedicines. First, they develop new materials, nanovesicles, that can carry existing anti-inflammatory drugs. The materials are designed to target the inflammation and deliver the drugs without damaging the surrounding tissue.

The second strategy is to create nanomaterials that can modulate the immune system. The nanomaterial acts as active substance that affects the immune response. With this method, they can fight inflammation in a new way. The aim is to interfere with the communication signals of immune cells already in the blood stream. This inhibits more immune cells to be recruited to the affected tissue and prevents the inflammation from getting worse

The third strategy is based on the discovery that the immune system not only defends out bodies, but also heals damaged tissue. The researchers examine which components that affects the immune cells in the healing process. The identified components can then be used to continue develop smarter materials for more specific immune-regulating therapies.

Biodiversity in a sustainable world
There is no way of knowing what the world will look like in the future. But we can influence what happens to it by teaching our children that they have an important part to play, both now and in the future. The road to a sustainable world lies in the search for knowledge and innovative solutions. It also lies in our careful action, and our ability to see both the necessity and the beauty of biodiversity. A sustainable planet that can sustain us all is possible, but this requires courageous decisions and actions.
Here, we have created a world for the youngest ones. We use play to pique their interest early on, laying a foundation for knowledge and an understanding of science, technology and mathematics, with emphasis on sustainable development and biodiversity. We create bridges between the physical and the virtual in an experience-based adventure. Reality, mystery and imaginative digital visualisation are all combined here, in a place designed to encourage play, discovery and collective learning for both children and adults. We bid a warm welcome to people of all ages!

Welcome to Miniverseum!
A world for little people. This is a place where little things become big, and big things become little. And you have some really cool talents in this magical world! You can make the birds sing, you can make the trees grow tall, you can make the city green. Humans, animals and nature live side by side here.
So, step inside. The road to a sustainable future starts right here. We will all learn together how to take care of our planet and everyone living here. One, two, three… Let’s play!
Green City
There is a cubbyhole for everyone in Green City! You could even move into the Collective for a while. People are living in all the houses in the Forest Edge District, but you would be very welcome to come and visit. Little Square is a place where you can visit an eco-café, shop in the covered market or grow your own food on one of the rooftops. Just watch out for the solar panels though, they provide power for the whole city! Head for the Honey Hotel if you start to feel a bit tired. Or else you could just rest for a while under the stars in the Night Sky.

The Great Sea
The research vessel Ada is moored at the end of the jetty. So jump aboard – it’s time to cast off for an amazing expedition on the seven seas! Head for places you’ve heard of, and quite a few you haven’t! Explore life above and below the surface of the water. When you’re at the research station, you can learn the names of all the different animals and find out who’s hungry – and who they’d like to eat!

The Enchanted Forest
Follow the path into the enchanted forest and feel how quickly it is growing. There are a few animals hiding here. Can you see them? Jump over logs and rocks, follow the squirrel trail up into the branches and almost disappear into the hide and seek forest. How big can mushrooms grow? What does Grandma Chlorophyll want every single day? The fairytale glade might be just the place to find all the answers.

The World Beyond
Deep in the forest stands the world tree. Anchored firmly to the ground, yet also providing a portal to other worlds and some amazing adventures. You can head for the ancient forest jungle or the coral reef in a heartbeat here. What do you think being an elk is like? Or a stingray? You are part of everything that happens in the World Beyond. What do you want to happen next?

For the 19th time, the Hasselblad Foundation is supporting the International Science Festival.

Each year, the International Science Festival in Gothenburg creates a meeting place for knowledge, inspiration and new perspectives. 

The Festival offers an exciting mix of science and culture. There are three separate programmes: the public programme, the school programme and the specialist programme – Forum for Research Communication.

The support amounts to SEK 400 000.