New Danish-Californian alliance for a future bio based society

Over three days, more than 200 top scientists and experts gathered in California for the third consecutive Danish-Californian workshop on synthetic biology. The workshop consolidates a new partnership between Denmark and California in this very promising area of research.

This particular collaboration will include, amongst other projects, a focus on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and strengthening the development of sustainable production and personalized medicine. For example, one objective is to create optimized biofules and tailored plants to work as small green factories that can produce enzymes with light as an energy source.

In 2010, the University of Copenhagen received 120 million Danish Kroner from the Ministry of Science’s UNIK program. The funds were used to establish Denmark's first center for synthetic biology, which is headed by Professor Birger Lindberg Moeller. Professor Moeller is also involved in the establishment of a new biotechnology research center together with Denmark’s Technical University. This center was enabled by a recent 700 million Danish Kroner grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Professor Moeller heads the Danish delegation in California and is very happy to be working with the Californian institutions:

"Within synthetic biology, better partners than Berkeley and the Joint BioEnergy Institute cannot be found. They have the resources to perform tests on a very large scale, and we can provide expertise on many of these processes. At the same time, all participants come with very diverse expertise in various areas," says Birger Lindberg Moeller.

DTU and Aalborg University also have researchers attending the workshop in addition to a number of Danes employed at Stanford, UC Berkeley and the related Joint Bio Energy Institute (JBEI). All are participating actively in the workshop to strengthen the alliance with Danish research. The workshop is sponsored by the Danish Agency for Research, Technology and Innovation, and planned by the Innovation Center Denmark, which is ministry outpost in California. Research Agency Director Inge Mærkedahl welcomes the alliance across the Atlantic.

We are pleased that Denmark's commitment in this area bears fruit in terms of international collaborations. By researching with the world leaders in the field, both parties avoid the same mistakes and we use research funds to their best effect. The alliance also strengthens us since the focus of the innovation centers in California is the right one.

Further, Professor Adam Arkin, Dean of Berkeley's Institute for Bio-Engineering and leader of the elite university's newly inaugurated Department of Synthetic Biology, greatly appreciates the fruitful cooperation with the Danes:

"Danish synthetic biology is world class and in recent years we have really become aware of the strength of our collaboration and the potential of our highly complementary areas of expertise, especially when it comes to the plant area, which is an emerging research field for us at Berkeley. It creates a very fertile ground for cooperation," says Adam Arkin.

Henrik Vibe Scheller - previous Professor at the University of Copenhagen and current head of research at JBEI- tells how he has already benefitted from the alliance between Denmark and California.

The partnership has meant that together, we have been able to generate new ideas that have led to exciting results. The next step is to exchange even more researchers across the Atlantic. It is when people work together in the laboratory that the pioneering ideas emerge.

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