Conference highlighted major questions and advances in natural products research

Friday 10 May 19
by Anders Mønsted, Anne Lykke


Tilmann Weber
DTU Biosustain
+45 24 89 61 32

160 top scientists discussed and presented their work in the field of natural products research at big Copenhagen Bioscience Conference. The red hot topics were natural product discovery, pathway identification, and enzyme optimization.

A large number of current pharmaceuticals are either natural products or derived from natural products. However, it is believed that there are many bioactive molecules in nature still to be discovered. Therefore, the 16th Copenhagen Bioscience Conference ‘Natural Products – Discovery, Biosynthesis and Application’ focused on covering the recent advances in the discovery of new natural products, elucidation of their biosynthetic pathways, expression of pathways in heterologous hosts, and optimization of production yields.

The conference from 5-9 May 2019 was organised by The Novo Nordisk Foundation in collaboration with The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) and DTU Bioengineering and was held in Favrholm, Hillerød. Throughout the conference, speakers presented research on how natural products can find applications as antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, flavors, feed ingredients, and other pharmaceuticals.

A new generation of tools and technologies

Many scientists are developing a wide range of tools and technologies that are needed to convert the vast biodiversity found in natural product pathways into bioactive compounds and treatments. Thus, the Natural Products conference blended different disciplines with the goal of unlocking the potential of how new platforms, tools and technologies can capture, manipulate and engineer natural product genes and pathways. One of the main reasons for arranging the conference was, thus, to unfold how biotechnological applications require breakthroughs in design, scale and biologics that currently still limit the development of this field.

“By bringing together world-leading scientists within natural products research we aimed to give participants a great opportunity to share their scientific research and explore how people all across the globe are working on natural products discovery from many different angles,” says Tilmann Weber, Professor at The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) and one of the scientific organisers of the conference.

Big names on the poster

Among the keynote speakers were Scientific Directors Jay Keasling and Sang Yup Lee in a session chaired by Michael Krogh Jensen. 

In an inspiring talk, Keasling provided examples of how yeast can be engineered to “produce some of the better things in life” – hoppy beers and cannabis. He shared his research on how to identify yeast-active linalool and geraniol synthases. Linalool is an influential part of hop aroma in many varieties and in finished beers as well. Furthermore, he shared how research conducted at the Joint BioEnergy Insitute at Berkeley University focus on tuning the expression of key genes in a biosynthetic pathway to simultaneously make precise concentrations of multiple flavor molecules.

In one of the other great talks, Sang Yup Lee, shared how researchers at KAIST University have developed a computational framework, DeepDDI, that can improve the prediction of drug-drug and drug-food interactions. So far alternative drug candidates for 62,707 drug pairs having negative health effects have been presented.

Even though the conference was centered around many great scientific presentations, it also featured poster sessions, social activities and a visit in the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen.


Find more info from the conference on Twitter using #NaturalProducts

Follow us on Twitter: @DTUBiosustain.

Read more about NNF's Copenhagen Bioscience Conferences here.


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