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Facts about The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, DTU

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 optimized 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 1.3 billion Danish kroner to the Center, which moved into new premises at DTU's campus in Lyngby in November 2016. DTU has financed the 5-storey 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, 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 optimized 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 specialized software tools and roadmaps of the cell’s signaling pathways. With these tools, researchers can see exactly which reactions and signaling pathways they need to redirect to get the optimal product yield.

The Center’s vision and mission

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) will be a world leader in the design, construction, and testing of cell factories by developing and perfecting foundational engineering approaches for biomanufacturing. Our vision is to develop sustainable lifestyles. This requires efficient bio-manufacturing methods for chemical compounds and protein-based products.

Concretely this means that we need to 1) broaden the range of chemical compounds and protein-based products that can be bio manufactured, 2) drive the costs and time of making industrial cell factories down to less than $20 Million in less than 2 years, 3) disseminate and translate results and development accomplishments in order to facilitate socio-economic development resulting from biomanufacturing, and 4) develop and train the next generation of skilled personnel in various aspects of cell factories design.


Pictures of Executive Management Team


Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bernhard Palsson

Bernhard Palsson, CEO of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability


Chief Operating Officer (COO) Bo Skjold Larsen

COO Bo Skjold Larsen

Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) Lars K. Nielsen

CSO Lars Kjeld Nielsen

Chief Information Officer (CSO) Evelyn Travnik

CIO Evelyn Travnik

Director of Translational Core Andreas Worberg

Andreas Worberg




CFB logo


DTU Logo blue


Anne Wärme Lykke
Communications Officer
DTU Biosustain
+45 21 12 37 70


Anders Østerby Mønsted
Communications Officer
DTU Biosustain
+45 24 67 79 47