Ansatte på Institut for Plante- og Miljøvidenskab – Københavns Universitet

Camilla Knudsen Baden

Camilla Knudsen Baden


“I get inspired to look at thing is in different ways by my collaborators both within and outside my field. This helps me troubleshot in the lab as well as sustain the direction the research should go.”

What is your research area?
Plants possess an immense diversity both in appearance and the compounds they produce to survive the harsh environment that nature really is. Many of these compounds are bioactive and have been used for many years as flavors, colors, perfumes, bio-pesticides and medicine. The complexity of these compounds is enormous and synthesis by traditional organic chemistry is very difficult.

In our group we study how these highly valuable compounds (specialized metabolites) are biosynthesized by the plants and how we can use synthetic biology to produce them in yeast or plant production systems such as algae or moss. 

Lately, I’ve also engaged in a project focusing on another high-value compound, the diterpenoid forskolin together with Irini Pateraki. The project will focus on using synthetic biology to increase the flux through the forskolin pathway and thereby increase the production of forskolin in vitro and in yeast.  

Synthesis of dhurrin


Why did you choose to work with this? / with synthetic biology?
I started studying classical plant biochemistry during my bachelor and master and expanded more into plant genetics during my PhD by working on the genetic model plant Lotus japonicus. In lotus I primarily studied UDP-glucosyltransferases involved in the biosynthesis of hydroxynitrile glucosides which includes cyanogenic glucosides. This lead me back to doing biochemistry as my knowledge about UGTs made me collaborate with Tomas Laursen, who studied metabolon formation in the dhurrin pathway of Sorghum bicolor.

Strategy for Isolation of the Dhurrin Metabolon

Strategy for Isolation of the Dhurrin Metabolon


Isolated dhurrin metabolon in a SMALP - styrene maleic acid lipid particle


How would you like your work to be applied?
The basic science that we do on the model compounds cyanogenic glucosides can be transferred to the biosynthesis and production of valuable compounds, which can be used within the food, feed and medicinal industry and thereby be of value to the society. 

Do you collaborate with other researchers?
Currently, I collaborate with both investigators in the cyanogenic glucoside research group, within the synthetic biology center and with a proteomic expert Jonas Borch at the University of Southern Denmark. We also started collaboration with a group at Oxford University, led by Carol Robinson that does mass spectrometry on protein complexes. But in general I interact and get inspired or advice from everyone at the Plant Biochemistry lab.

Do you collaborate with industry?
Yes, I am starting a collaboration with the Danish-Swiss biotech company Evolva on the diterpenoid forskolin together with Irini Pateraki supervising a master student. The project will focus on using synthetic biology to increase the flux through the forskolin pathway and thereby increase the production of forskolin in vitro and in yeast. 

What motivates you in your work?
Curiosity and fascination of how plants can produce very complex metabolites in often much simpler ways then we as scientists suggest.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Probably being a part of a project that can finally prove an almost 30 year old hypothesis within the field – namely the metabolon formation in plant compound production.  This has only become possible through the collaboration of a number of scientists in order to thoroughly investigate the hypothesis as all participants have different strengths and competences used in this project.   

When not doing science; how do you like to spend your time?
I started trail running during my maternity leave as running in the forest, in different terrain and any weather condition really is very challenging, rewarding and lots fun! Otherwise I like to play soccer and do sea kayaking when I’m not spending time growing plants in my garden.  

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