Can microorganisms hold the key to solving three of our greatest biotechnological challenges: sustainable production of chemicals, carbon capture and renewable energy storage?
A new research project led by Amelia-Elena Rotaru, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark will try to answer this question. She will investigate whether microbes can be used to create one overall solution to all three biotechnological challenges and has received a grant of DKK 9,735,600 through the Foundation’s Research Leader Programme.
The grant will enable Amelia-Elena Rotaru and her team to investigate whether and how microorganisms can capture electrical energy directly and then assess whether microorganisms capable of direct energy capture can be used to create a solution for the sustainable production of chemicals, carbon capture and renewable energy storage.
The project is one of 12 biotechnology research projects distributed across the Nordic countries that have received grants totalling DKK 115.6 million for research over the next 5 years. Six of the projects awarded grants, including that of Amelia-Elena Rotaru, are within industrial biotechnology and environmental biotechnology.
New knowledge is vital for the green transition
The other six grants have been awarded within plant science, agriculture and food biotechnology. One project within this scientific field will investigate how breeders can select the variants of a crop that provide farmers with the best yield under local growing conditions.
The project is led by Guillaume Ramstein, Assistant Professor and Group Leader, Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, Aarhus University. He will use machine learning to obtain new knowledge about how the various genetic variants of crops such as wheat or barley cope under specific climatic conditions and thus which variant would provide the best yield in specific circumstances. Guillaume Ramstein has received a grant of DKK 7,993,851 for the project.
These 12 diverse projects will contribute significantly to creating new knowledge that can be used to ensure the green transition within agricultural and food production and industry.
“Globally, we face major challenges in ensuring the sustainable production of food for a growing world population and creating energy sources that do not drain our planet unnecessarily of resources. The 12 very different projects can help to drive this development by searching for answers to some basic questions that can later be converted into solutions to be used in agricultural fields and in industrial production,” says Claus Felby, Senior Vice President, Biotech, Novo Nordisk Foundation.
The 12 recipients of grants within industrial biotechnology and environmental biotechnology and within plant science, agriculture and food biotechnology are listed below.
Grants within industrial biotechnology and environmental technology:
Amelia-Elena Rotaru, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark: Harnessing Microbes to Store Electricity and Capture Carbon Dioxide in Sustainable Chemicals, DKK 9,735,600
Pablo Iván Nikel Mayer, Senior Researcher and Group Leader, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark: TARGET – Sustainable Production of Novel Biopolymers by Engineering Efficient C1 Assimilation in Pseudomonas putida, DKK 9,999,440
Henrik Land, Researcher, Department of Chemistry – Ångström Laboratory, Uppsala University, Sweden: Biocatalytic Fixation of Carbon Dioxide – Biodiversity and Evolvability of Present-day Carbon Monoxide Dehydrogenase and its Ancestors, DKK 8,139,512
Linda Bergaust, Researcher, Faculty of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway: Single-cell Protein Production by Anaerobic Respiration (AnaPro), DKK 9,981,000
Suvi Santala, Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Tampere University, Finland: Improving Metabolic Diversity and Efficiency of Bacteria for Lignin Valorization, DKK 9,942,617
Miia Mäkelä, Principal Investigator, Department of Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Finland: MYCOFACT: the Dual Role of Sugar Transporters in Plant Biomass Conversion by Fungi to Improve Microbial Cell Factories, DKK 9,997,196
Grants within plant science, agriculture and food biotechnology:
Guillaume Ramstein, Assistant Professor and Group Leader, Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics, Aarhus University: Selection of Mutations by In Silico and Experimental Variant Effects (SIEVE): a New Strategy to Improve Fitness in Cool-season Grasses, DKK 7,993,851
Sebastian Marquardt, Associate Professor, Copenhagen Plant Science Centre, University of Copenhagen: PROTECTOR: Promoting Resilience to Temperature Change with Environmental Sensor RNAs, DKK 9,999,063
Klaus Herburger, Group Leader, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Understanding Plant Cell Wall Remodelling to Enhance Cell Wall Biomechanics, DKK 9,998,188
Clarissa Schwab, Associate Professor, Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Aarhus University: Organic Acids – Old Natural Compounds with Underexploited Biofunctionalities (BIOFUNC), DKK 9,941,638
Stéphane Verger, Affiliated Group Leader Group Leader, Umeå Plant Science Centre, Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences: GoodFib: Establishment of trees with high-yield and high-quality wood fibers for more sustainable improved feedstock, DKK 9.927.110
Kirsi Mikkonen, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Nutrition, University of Helsinki, Finland: Revealing Mechanisms of Post Processing Senescence to Secure the Supply of High-quality Vegetables for the Planetary Diet (VegeSense), DKK 10.000.000
Part of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Research Leader Programme
The grants for the 12 projects within biotechnology research are part of the Fondation’s Research Leader Programme, which targets research leaders at three different career stages.
Emerging Investigator. Upcoming and promising researchers who want to establish or are in the process of establishing their own research group and research profile.
Ascending Investigator. Talented research leaders at the associate professor level in the process of consolidating their research group and profile.
Distinguished Investigator. Professors of high international standing and calibre.
Read more about the Programme and the grant recipients here.
Sabina Askholm Larsen, Communications Partner, +45 2367 3226, [email protected]
This article was updated on 14 February 2022 due to a change in the recipient list (Stéphane Verger is new on the list as another recipient has withdrawn their application).