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On Research's Bleeding Edge

Denmark is a leader in the global life science community, which was one reason Martina Slingsby chose to move to Copenhagen from London. After arriving in 2013, she found a research job that she calls a “total win-win”

Martina Slingsby (UK, Sweden)

Before: Post Doc in Pharmacology, Imperial College, London, UK
Now: Researcher in the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark

Every time she thinks about the name on her office building, Martina Slingsby feels a tinge of pride.

"Within the field of exercise physiology, Denmark is a world leader," she says. "There have been a lot of people, even Nobel Prize winners, who have laid the groundwork for the work we are doing today."

Her building at Copenhagen University is named for August Krogh, winner of the 1920 Nobel Prize in physiology, where Martina is a researcher at the school’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports. Martina came to Denmark in 2013 because she saw opportunities in the life science sector, and because her husband worked in the wind energy business – where Denmark is also a global leader. She didn’t expect, however, to find such a perfect fit for her research.

"In London I was working at the William Harvey Research Institute, founded by Sir John Vane, who won a Nobel Prize for discovering how aspirin worked," she says. "There my focus was investigating the pharmacology of aspirin and other ‘blood thinning’ drugs that patients receive after a heart attack."

At Copenhagen University, her focus shifted to studying how these drugs are affected by exercise in everything from lowering blood pressure to improving insulin sensitivity.

"Right now, I am looking at the medicines you get after a heart attack to see how they affect cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of another attack," she says.

Martina explains that Copenhagen University’s years of complex physiology research means it has vast expertise in conducting invasive clinical studies. That is important, she explains, when it comes to addressing ethical concerns about testing on humans and makes it possible to do research that simply wouldn’t be possible other places in the world.

"The studies here are invasive, but in a safe way. Typically, they involve putting in catheters and that way we can infuse different medicines to study the health of blood vessels on healthy people," she says. "When I came I started testing how the blood reacts to those infusions, so it was a perfect combination of the blood work I did before and the blood vessel work they were already doing. From day one, it was already a win-win."