Jens B. Nielsen, DTU Biosustain

Cell factory pioneer receives Novozymes Prize

Friday 19 Feb 16


Søren Molin
DTU Biosustain
+45 20 31 82 10

About Jens Nielsen

Born: 1962

Chief Scientific Officer at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, DTU Biosustain, and professor at Chalmers University of Technology, where he is Director of Chalmers Life Science Engineering Area of Advance and Director of Systems and Synthetic Biology. 

The Novozymes Prize

The prize is awarded in recognition of groundbreaking research or a technological contribution that benefits the development of biotechnology science to generate innovative solutions.

It is awarded for a predominantly European contribution. Prize winners must be employed at a public or non-profit research institution in a European country, but can be of any nationality. 

The Novozymes Prize committee awards the prize on behalf of the Novo Nordisk Foundation based on nominations received. Anyone may nominate a candidate for the prize.

Professor Jens Nielsen, DTU Biosustain, has been awarded the 2016 Novozymes Prize. 

Jens Nielsen is receiving the prize for his groundbreaking work in systems biology and for his interdisciplinary pioneering efforts to describe and change the metabolism in microorganisms in order to get them to produce chemicals in a cost-efficient manner. The method can then be used as an alternative to oil in the chemical industry.

Jens Nielsen, who is Chief Scientific Officer at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) and professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, and , has been a significant frontrunner in the rapid development of systems biology in the past 20 years. From biosynthesis with one gene inserted in a microorganism that produces one protein, to today's cell factories which produce chemical substances and enzymes after insertion of up to 40 genes in, for example, yeast and fungi cells. The new, sustainable technology is now on the brink of an industrial breakthrough.

“Industrial exploitation of cell factories may lead to a renewable society which is independent of fossil fuels. It also allows the cell factories to develop new products for the benefit of society, for example new antimicrobial agents and new materials,” says Jens Nielsen.

The prize is accompanied by DKK 3 million, of which DKK 2.5 million is a funding amount for Jens Nielsen's research and the remaining DKK 0.5 million a personal award.

“It is a great honour to receive the Novozymes Prize. In my work, I have always been particularly interested in understanding and changing the metabolism, so that we can apply this knowledge in the industry. To now get free funds to finance riskier projects is an enormous strength, and can be a possibility for gaining new insights that are essential if we are to improve the technology,” says Jens Nielsen.

Søren Molin, chairman of the prize committee, says:

“Jens Nielsen is receiving the 2016 Novozymes Prize for his outstanding efforts over many years in developing systems biology. Jens Nielsen has unique knowledge of the most important aspects of the new systems biology—mathematics, reaction and fermentation science, data integration and modern microbial genetics. He has been able to combine and use this knowledge creatively and intuitively to contribute massively to the basic understanding of the physiology of microorganisms and how this is regulated.”

Jens Nielsen will be formally presented with the award on 15 March 2016.

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