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Novo Nordisk Foundation Commits €100M Grant to Developing Green Tech

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a five-year grant of €100M to the DTU Biosustain research center near Copenhagen to support the development of sustainable green technology.

DTU Biosustain was founded in 2011 and forms part of the Danish Technical University. The Novo Nordisk Foundation, which is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world, was instrumental in setting up and funding the center in 2011. This funding continues its support of the organization. 

The new funding will run from January 2021 to December 2025 and will allow DTU Biosustain to continue to research and develop sustainable chemicals, bio-based products, and microbial foods and feed ingredients. The center will also hire more staff and develop a range of industrial and academic partnerships around the world. It is also in the process of developing a biofoundry to spearhead the development of new cell factories with the help of big data.

In addition to funding academic research, DTU Biosustain also funds and supports university spinouts developing new technologies in its focus areas. To date, 27 biotech startups have been launched and the center plans to continue funding startups over the next five years. 

Some notable examples of startups springing from DTU Biosustain in the past include: BioPhero, a biotech that uses pheromones to develop pest control; Biosyntia, a company using microbes to make vitamins; and SNIPR Biome, which is using CRISPR to precisely target ‘bad’ microbes in the gut. 

“Both technology companies with software, hardware, and bio-products as well as service companies were founded by different types of entrepreneurs through the lifetime of the center so far,” Andreas Worberg, Director Translational Core at the center, told me.

“DTU Biosustain is also collaborating with small- and medium-sized companies and startups in Denmark and Europe, diversifying and developing attractive bio-processes and technologies in research collaborations.”

The center strongly supports the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. One of its aims is to move society away from traditionally produced chemical products, which currently use up to 20% of the world’s oil and gas.

“There are numerous technologies, demands, and opportunities to replace or substitute existing chemical products with more sustainable alternatives, either because of their life cycle assessment or other factors like feedstock and raw material considerations,” commented Worberg.

“This bio-economy revolution also allows a way for society and industry to invest in new and better performing molecules and products.” 

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is the majority shareholder of both the Danish big pharma Novo Nordisk and the industrial biotech giant Novozymes. It therefore has strong interests in funding both health-related and industrial research and development.

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