Analysing data accelerates the development of cell factories

Wednesday 11 Jul 18

They rarely steal the show and the big headlines, but the Analytics Unit at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, DTU, is playing a crucial part in the Center’s scientific success stories.


Biosustain Magazine has met Head of the Analytical Core Facility and Senior Researcher, Hanne Bjerre Christensen, to a chat about how the Analytics Unit as part of the iLoop Core contribute to fulfilling the overall mission of the Center. 


First of all, can you just explain what the overall goal is for the unit?


The overall goal of the unit is to provide efficient and high-throughput solutions in order to accelerate the development and optimisation of microbial cell factory for commercial applications. 


We are providing a service for people working at the Center. If people have chemical challenges or difficulties in analysing data, we can hopefully help them. In general, people often come to us with a problem that needs to be solved.


The group covers a rather big area spanning from small molecules to large molecules – from small routine tests to more advanced tests. We are able to analyse for example both proteomes and glycan structures, so we can help people with many different issues. A broad range of compounds is analysed, from biological precursors to end products, small molecules to biopolymers including proteins.


What are people asking for when they contact Analytics?


Most of the requests focus on product analysis. If a research group is working on making a new product, then they need some information about whether they can actually produce a high enough amount to make it commercially relevant. 


How do you see the collaboration between Analytics and the Pre-Pilot Plant Facility?

One example is that parts of the genome editing need to be optimised before it gets up-scaled and tested in the pre-pilot facility. We do the method development and testing that ultimately decides whether it is relevant to continue with a certain ‘project’ in the pre-pilot plant. When it reaches a certain level of production, we hand it over. 


The pre-pilot plant is supposed to do their own analytics, but we support them because we developed the methods for analysis in the first place. We deliver a package with some methods for analysis and other findings that we have discovered in the first phase of a project to provide them with the best possibilities for further development.



Would you say that Analytics still present an unexploited potential?


The dialogue is important when we try to reach a mutual understanding of our capabilities. Our potential is big, but the challenge is limited resources. Thus, currently it is not possible for us to handle more tasks but we continue to help with guidance and we collaborate with partners at DTU that can help people when we are not able to do it ourselves. 


Projects need a certain potential for us to take them in. It requires too many resources if we need to develop an entirely new method for ten tests when it can be analysed easily elsewhere. Additionally, there are some specific guidelines that must be followed when it comes to the development of new methods. There are requirements for validations to make sure that we always are able to deliver a high quality analysis of scientific results.

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