Female researcher showing a lab-on-a-chip device

Nanotech boosts research and innovation in biotech and biomedicine

Tuesday 22 Jan 19


Bjarke Bak Christensen
Head of Department
DTU Bioengineering
+4530 66 42 33

Nano research groups

Nano Bio Integrated Systems
Group Leader: Winnie Svendsen
Develops highly sensitive technologies for medical diagnosis, treatment monitoring, and environmental monitoring.

Group Leader: Anders Wolff
The group’s research focuses on manipulation, sorting, and analysis of cells using DNA-based techniques.

Bioanalytical Systems
Group Leader: Jenny Emnéus
The bioanalytics group uses microtechnology and nanotechnology, microfluidics, and multi-parameter detection systems for development and characterization of integrated units with applications in tissue engineering, drug delivery, and monitoring of biological processes at cellular level.

Restructuring at DTU

The relocation of the research groups forms part of the large-scale restructuring implemented at the turn of the year in connection with the establishment of the Department of Health Technology. As part of this process, DTU Nanotechnology was discontinued as a department, and many of the researchers from Nanotech were moved to the new department, while others were moved to departments in which new strong environments are created with related academic environments.

DTU boosts research and innovation in biotechnology and biomedicine by expanding DTU Bioengineering with three research groups from DTU Nanotech.

DTU Bioengineering is a biology department with many specialized laboratories in which researchers study bacteria and microorganisms. The researchers’ work includes finding new biological substances such as antimicrobial agents, drugs for cancer treatment, enzymes for decomposition of biological material, dyes, etc. They do this by modifying the genes in organisms and developing so-called cell factories that enable the cells to produce the substances in sufficiently large quantities for them to be utilized in bioindustry.

"I am convinced that the combination of nanotechnological knowhow with the biologists’ in-depth knowledge of biological systems will produce new and exciting research results and innovative solutions in both biotechnology and biomedicine.”"
Head of Department Bjarke Bak Christensen

Nanotechnology deals with the utilization of material structures and functional components at the atomic level where molecules and atoms can be used to create new structures. It may therefore seem strange that three research groups from DTU Nanotech relocated to DTU Bioengineering at the turn of the year.

However, nanotechnology has many biotechnological and biomedical applications. A good example is the intelligent patch which—by means of a nanotechnological sensor in the patch—notifies the hospital staff in the event of bacteriological activity, i.e. infection of a wound. The sensor has been developed by - among others - Associate Professor Winnie Svendsen, physicist and Group Leader of Nano Bio Integrated Systems (NaBIS); one of the three research groups transferred to DTU Bioengineering.

Initially, Winnie Svendsen was sceptical about the idea of moving her research to a biology department, but the move very quickly proved to contain unexpected opportunities.

For years, one of Winnie Svendsen’s major problems has been to find challenges for the technology that her group develops. Using methods from microscience and nanoscience, they create lab-on-a-chip systems, which are laboratories that can fit in a microchip. Quick and precise measurements can be made of microscopic samples by passing the sample material through the microchip.

The group’s lab-on-a-chip systems are used for both biological analyses—for example to measure how a pharmaceutical product is absorbed by the body—and environmental analyses, for example measurement of whether a substance such as Roundup is found in a groundwater well; but it has been difficult to convince researchers and physicians about the benefits of her technological solutions. With the relocation to DTU Biotechnology, Winnie Svendsen suddenly found herself in a department with researchers who could definitely see the benefit of using her technology:

“I’ve spent an awful lot of time looking for challenges that my technology can solve in both the research and the hospital sectors. My encounter with the researchers at DTU Bioengineering has been a bit like a child being let loose in a candy store. There are so many exciting opportunities to apply technological solutions on. The researchers at this department can really see the potential of being able to make quick and highly sensitive measurements in real time. I have a feeling that all my technologies will find new paths, discover new things, and create new research and innovation in close collaboration between biology and nanotechnology.”

For Head of Department Bjarke Bak Christensen, the possibility of receiving the three research groups from DTU Nanotech was an excellent opportunity to support several aspects of the department’s strategy:

“I believe it is important precisely at DTU that we are able to combine biology with technological solutions. This is something we have been focusing on extensively at DTU Bioengineering in recent years. With the addition of the three groups from DTU Nanotech, we can further accelerate this development.

The three new research groups all have strong innovation profiles and they will therefore stregthen innovation at the department, which is another strategic focus area for DTU Bioengineering.

“I am convinced that the combination of nanotechnological knowhow with the biologists’ in-depth knowledge of biological systems will result in new and exciting research results and innovative solutions in both biotechnology and biomedicine. I am therefore very pleased that the three groups accepted the relocation to DTU Bioengineering,”

says Head of Department Bjarke Bak Christensen

The other two groups that have moved to DTU Bioengineering from DTU Nanotech are Bioanalytical Systems—headed by Jenny Emnéus and BioLabChip—with Associate Professor Anders Wolff as Group Leader.

Several joint applications have already been sent for research grants for projects in the cross field between nanotechnology and biotechnology.