4 December 2012

Prestigious EU Grant for Synbio Professor


This year, Professor Birger Lindberg Møller is receiving the covetable ERC Advanced Grant of 2,5 mio €. The money will be used to develop plant cells for sustainable production of anything from cancer medicine to raw materials, which are currently produced based on oil. The project is a part of the cross-disciplinary UCPH-Center for Synthetic Biology. 

Every year thousands of European researchers apply for the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant, which is rewarded as a special recognition of researchers that are leaders within their field. The grant is awarded to top researchers from humanities, social and natural sciences. A mere 250 researchers make it through the eye of the needle, which give them access to a 2,5 million € grant to be used freely within a specific project.

For this reason, Director of Center for Synthetic Biology Professor Birger Lindberg Møller regards this as a very special recognition:

“Only very few researchers receive this grant, as the applicants always have been among the most outstanding scholars in Europe. It is therefore a great honor to be one of three researchers at the SCIENCE faculty to be acknowledged this year by the ERC,” says Birger Lindberg Møller, who is based in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.

In the ERC panel’s evaluation Birger Lindberg Møller is described as “a top researcher who plays in the highest league of plant molecular research”.

The project itself, “lightdriven biosynthesis”, is accompanied by the following words:

“The combination of gene discovery programs, sophisticated biochemistry and complementary production system (bacteria, higher plants, mosses) should provide the best chances of success for this ambitious initiative” and the project will furthermore “open new avenues in synthetic biology since the tools will be used in the frame of “share your parts” principle”, which is the idea of open knowledge sharing within synthetic biology.

Apart from his great work as a director of several research centers, researcher and teacher Birger Lindberg Møller dedicates a large amount of his time to disseminate awareness of plant research and create interest around natural sciences in general. E.g. at this year's TEDxCopenhagen conference, he presented the enormous potential of synthetic biology. Watch the video here: http://synbio.ku.dk/news/tedxcph2012_talks/

The ERC awards Advanced Grants for European scientists who belong among the very best in their field. The prestigious grants are given as funding for groundbreaking research projects. In the evaluation the ERC put special emphasis on the applicant’s own research related merits and accomplishments.

Birger Lindberg Møller is heading the cross-disciplinary research collaboration Center for Synthetic Biology, in which several from his own lab group at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences participate. Apart from plant biologists, the center also comprises biophysicists, neurobiologists, and nano-scientists.

The main research interest of Birger Lindberg Møller is the advanced molecules plants use to communicate with their surroundings or to defend themselves against herbivores. The enzymes responsible for building the advanced chemical structures of these molecules make plant cells the most skillful chemists in the world.

At the cross-disciplinary Center for Synthetic Biology researchers are attempting to build biological systems with novel useful functions. The researchers participating in the center’s lightdriven biosynthesis project are constructing specialized cells in which photosynthetic proteins have been combined with the “chemist”-enzymes.

These cells can be used as light-driven micro-factories where solar energy and CO2 are directly converted into a desired product. The cells can be specialized to produce anything from expensive cancer medicine to biodegradable plastics to raw materials, which are currently produced in the polluting, oil-based chemical industry.

View Birger Lindber Møller's research profile here: