14 new bacterial experts are about to hit the industry

Monday 23 May 16


Søren Molin
DTU Biosustain
+45 20 31 82 10


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

This summer 14 PhD students from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability’s BacTory program will graduate. The students have been collaborating with an industrial partner in order to get insight into the cross field between research, environment, industry, and economy.

14 international PhDs with expertise in bio-engineering of bacteria are about to graduate from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability.

The idea with the BacTory program was to educate young scientists in both bacterial cell design and leadership.

“Despite many years of effort to reduce oil consumption in the production of chemicals, the industry is still heavily dependent on petroleum-based chemicals. Therefore, our aim was to educate scientists, who can develop bacterial cell factories that can produce bio-chemicals,” says Professor Søren Molin, who has been the coordinator of the program. He continues:

“At the same time it was important for us, that the PhD students were able to understand the needs of society and industry. Therefore, we gave each the opportunity to work with a business mentor, a research supervisor, and a host company.”

Getting bacteria to do the dirty job – in a clean way

The BacTory students have concentrated on the development of new tools and methods, which can ensure that chemical production can be achieved in an industrial production scenario using engineered bacteria, so-called bacterial cell factories.

"The industry is still heavily dependent on petroleum-based chemicals. Therefore, our aim was to educate scientists, who can develop bacterial cell factories that can produce bio-chemicals"
Professor Søren Molin

But constructing bacterial cell factories that can complete this task is very hard, and it requires both knowledge in design of biochemical interactions going on within the cells and a lot of hands-on practice. 

Even though the students have been working on very different projects from soil bacteria to evolution, everyone has focused on getting acquainted with bacteria and how they can be engineered to convert low value biological material into products of high value in a bio-refinery setting.

Therefore, the students either examined or identified the limits for bio-chemical production, so-called metabolic bottlenecks or efficient production scenarios.

Friends from all over the world

Swedish Sofie Wendel – who is one of the BacTory students – has been happy with the program. Her industrial partner was the French biotech firm Amabiotics, where she was expatriated for two months.

“It has in many ways been a fantastic and fun time for me. I have felt very privileged, not the least because I had the chance to travel a lot,” she says.

“Also, it has been great to meet students from all over the world and always having someone in the same work situation to discuss and hang out with. I am sure, we will keep in touch.”

BacTory PhDs bridge science and the industry

BacTory is a PhD training program (ITN) providing young scientists with a combination of scientific, industrial and entrepreneurial skills.

It is a 3-year program that includes participation in course activities to expand the scientific skills and the awareness of business options.

14 PhDs with 9 different nationalities have been trained in the program at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) from an EU funding of 30 million Danish kroner from the EU Marie Curie Program.

11 companies throughout Europe served as associate partners.

The program started in 2013, and the students have now handed in their thesis, and will defend during the Summer 2016.