Jens Nielsen

 

Bio

Jens Nielsen has an MSc degree in Chemical Engineering and a PhD degree (1989) in Biochemical Engineering from the Danish Technical University (DTU), and after that established his independent research group and was appointed full Professor there in 1998. He was Fulbright visiting professor at MIT in 1995-1996. At DTU he founded and directed Center for Microbial Biotechnology. In 2008 he was recruited as Professor and Director to Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, where he is currently directing a research group of more than 50 people. At Chalmers he established the Area of Advance Life Science Engineering, a cross departmental strategic research initiative and was founding Head of the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering, which now encompass more than 170 people.

Jens Nielsen has published so far more than 550 papers that have been cited more than 36,000 times (current H-factor 94), co-authored more than 40 books and he is inventor of more than 50 patents. He was identified by Thompson Reuter as a highly cited researcher in 2015 and 2016.

Jens Nielsen founded Fluxome A/S that raised more than M20EUR in venture capital. This company metabolically engineered yeast for production of resveratrol and used this yeast for commercial production of this compound. This process was acquired by the company Evolva. Jens Nielsen has founded several other biotech companies, including Metabogen AB and Biopetrolia AB, and he has served in the scientific advisory board of a range of different biotech companies in the USA and Europe. Jens Nielsen has received numerous Danish and international awards including the Villum Kann Rasmussen’s Årslegat, Merck Award for Metabolic Engineering, Amgen Award for Biochemical Engineering, Nature Mentor Award, the Gaden Award, the Norblad-Ekstrand gold medal and the Novozymes Prize. He is member of several academies, including the National Academy of Engineering in USA, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology. He is a founding president of the International
Metabolic Engineering Society.

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Title

Systems Biology of Metabolism: From microbial cell factories to obesity and cancer

Jens Nielsen Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

Abstract

Metabolism is the core of functioning of any cell as it ensures provision of Gibbs free energy as well as precursors for synthesis of cellular constituents like proteins, lipids and DNA. Metabolism involves a large number of biochemical conversion processes. Thus, even Baker’s yeast, that serves as the most simple model for studying human cells, contains more than 900 enzymes that catalyze more than 1,500 biochemical reactions. In human cells these numbers are much larger with more than 3,000 enzymes and more than 5,000 biochemical reactions. Even though the large number of reactions are organized into metabolic pathways, there is a high degree of connectivity between the reactions, and hence it is quite complicated to study these reactions individually. It is therefore necessary to take a systemic approach for analysis of metabolism, often referred to as systems biology. We are working on generating so-called genome-scale metabolic models (GEMs) that are comprehensive description of cellular metabolism. We have over the last years reconstructed GEMs for a number of industrially important fungi, including the Baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and used these models for analysis of large data sets and for identification of novel targets where we can engineer the metabolism, often referred to as metabolic engineering. Hereby we have developed advanced cell factories for the production of fuels and chemicals. Recently we have also embarked on building a Human Metabolic Atlas, a novel web-based database and modelling tool that can be used by medical and pharmaceutical researchers to analyse clinical data with the objectives of identifying biomarkers associated with disease development and improving health care. The central technology in the Human Metabolic Atlas is GEMs, which are tissue-specific. These models allow for context-dependent analysis of clinical data, providing much more information than traditional statistical correlation analysis, and hence advance the identification of biomarkers from high-throughput experimental data that can be used for early diagnosis of metabolic related diseases. In this presentations our technologies behind reconstruction, simulation and analysis of GEMs will be presented and results from studies in metabolic engineering and systems medicine will be presented. In connection with the latter it will also be discussed how we can advance towards modeling of the gut microbiome, which has recently demonstrated to be an active metabolic organ in the human body. 

 

 

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