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Facts about the Center

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) at DTU, was founded with funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation in 2011. The Center develops cell factories based on bacteria, yeast cells and animal cells. The cells are optimised to produce large quantities of medicines, food ingredients, chemicals or plastic under sustainable conditions. The idea behind this interdisciplinary research center is to develop new knowledge and technology that can drive the transformation from the oil-based chemicals industry into more sustainable bio-based production.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has granted DKK 1.3 billion to the Center, which moved into new premises at DTU's campus in Lyngby in November 2016. DTU has financed the five-story building.

Novo Nordisk, Carlsberg, Arla Foods, Novozymes, LEO Pharma, Dupont Nutrition, Chr. Hansen, Royal Unibrew, CP Kelco, Dako, DanCake, Biogen, Xellia, SSI, Lantmännen, Uhrenholt, Genmab, CMC Biologics and Vitalys, amongst others apply fully or partially bio-based products.

What is a microbial cell factory?

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) is developing so-called cell factories. These factories are microorganisms, e.g. bacteria or yeast, which are genetically optimised to produce a sought-for compound, for example a chemical, food ingredient or drug.

In order for the microorganism to produce the desired chemical or molecule, the researchers typically insert genes from plants, other bacteria or animal cells. Often, the researchers also perform advanced metabolic engineering on the cell. This redirects the energy of the cell to produce the desired compound instead of "everyday functions" such as growth. The cell's metabolism is thus controlled to produce a high yield of chemical/compound.

A cell's metabolism consists of thousands of reactions. Therefore, it is necessary to develop specialised software tools and roadmaps of the cell’s signalling pathways. With these tools, researchers can see exactly which reactions and signalling pathways they need to redirect to get the optimal product yield.

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