Bjarke Bak Christensen

AI to accelerate green transition

Thursday 26 Nov 20


Bjarke Bak Christensen
Head of Department
DTU Bioengineering
+45 30 66 42 33


BioTrends is published quarterly and gives you the latest news from DTU Bioengineering along with Head of Department Bjarke Bak Christensen's comments on current trends in the biotechnological field.
Students with programming and AI skills in biotechnology boost research efficiency and create more sustainable production.

New inventions take time. However, through training students and the employees of biotech companies in programming and the use of large data volumes, society stands to reap considerable benefits in the form of faster development of sustainable production and new technologies capable of helping to address challenges related to climate change.

It can sometimes be hard to see the potential of new research results in the field of biology. Few people will realize what a mould fungus—or hyphomycete—with a small number of branching hyphae can accomplish. However, as demonstrated by this year’s team of DTU BioBuilders and their genetic modification of a new mould, a good idea—combined with knowledge of how to program and utilize large volumes of data—can in record time pave the way for more efficient and sustainable production of chemical substances, for example.

In recent months only, quite a few news stories have told how DTU Bioengineering’s research contributes to greater sustainability: Cows on a diet emit 40 per cent less methane. Newly discovered enzyme increases biomass value. Enzymes convert CO2 into green chemicals. And not least, understanding how microbial societies work can help reduce pesticide use, prevent failed harvests, and increase biodiversity.

"We need to get young people on board, and surveys among students of biotechnology show, that they are driven by a desire to create a better world through biotechnology and digital solutions."
Bjarke Bak Christensen, Head of Department

And now we are increasing our focus on sustainability further. A grant of DKK 15 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation enables Senior Researcher Solange I. Mussatto to move her research group Biomass Conversion and Bioprocess Technology from DTU Biosustain to DTU Bioengineering. She will help drive our strategic agenda to transform society from the fossil-based economy to a bio-based and sustainable economy. She will also help introduce the UN’s sustainable development goals in our study programmes.

In other words, the combination of biotechnology, bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, etc. is very promising in terms of creating a sustainable future. However, we need to get young people on board, and surveys among students of biotechnology show, that they are driven by a desire to create a better world, through biotechnology and digital solutions.

At DTU, we are keen to strengthen the combination of dry, theoretical subjects with wet, laboratory-based subjects. On a new course in computer-aided cell factory design, students learn to program their data, and they use AI to find patterns that can increase the efficiency of their research.

Biotech companies are also keenly interested in new graduates from DTU and in their own employees being able to make the most of the digital technology. A new course in computer-assisted design to be offered by DTU Bioengineering is therefore under planning by DTU’s center for continuing education, DTU Learn for Life. The course is expected to be offered in spring 2021.

Bjarke Bak Christensen

Head of Department, DTU Bioengineering

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