Bernhard Palsson Novozymes award in Biochemical and Chemical Engineering

The Novozymes Award in Biochemical and Chemical Engineering 2016 goes to Bernhard Palsson

Friday 18 Nov 16


Bernhard Palsson
Scientific Director
DTU Biosustain
+45 45 25 80 02

Professor Bernhard Palsson received this year’s Novozymes Award within Biochemical and Chemical Engineering. As a young scientist, he was told that trying to compute biology was “professional suicide”. Luckily, this turned out not to be the case – quite the contrary.

Professor Bernhard Palsson showed a picture of himself as a very young man.


“We had the same tools as today, more or less. For instance, I had a memory stick. Okay, maybe it was not like today,” he said and pointed at the old magnetic tape in the picture. The audience laughed.


Bernhard Palsson was giving his acceptance speech for the 2016 Novozymes Award within Biochemical and Chemical Engineering, which he was awarded for his excellent work within the field. Bernhard Palsson both works as a Professor at University of California, San Diego, CA, and is the CEO of The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability at Technical University of Denmark (DTU).


Novozymes’ CEO, Peter Holk Nielsen, and Senior Vice President of Research & Technology, Claus Crone Fuglsang, hosted the award ceremony.


Modelling was very tedious before ALE

Bernhard Palsson’s life’s work has been and still is about modeling cellular pathways in order to understand the mechanisms and to ultimately be able to change the output of the cell. For industry, the output of a so-called cell factory may be valuable chemicals and pharmaceuticals.


Displaying this old picture mentioned previously was in fact to show how difficult it was to study cellular reactions back then, and that things have changed dramatically:


“Recent years’ advances in adapted laboratory evolution, ALE, allows us to study evolution within a few weeks. Using ALE, we can test our models and improve them accordingly,” he said and continued:


“Now, we are able to look at the cell as a business enterprise. We can measure how it uses its input, and how well it produces its output – and so we can even do risk management of the cell. We can compute the overall operating cost of a cell, and we can compute the capital costs of building a cell.”


“I am very honoured to be the recipient of this prize,” he ended his speech.


The prize is awarded annually in honour of Professor John Villadsen and his contributions to biochemical and chemical engineering at DTU and other universities around the world.

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