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Project details – Institut for Plante- og Miljøvidenskab - Københavns Universitet

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Synthetic biology to engineer the production of health-promoting bioactives in microbial cell factories in industrial biotechnology

Main area:Molecular Biology
Target group:Biology-Biotechnology, Natural Resources, Natural Resources
Educational level:Master, Bachelor, Project outside course scope
Project description:

Intake of cruciferous vegetables are rich in glucosinolates that are associated with numerous health benefits including reduced risk of developing cancer. Substantial attention has been given to glucoraphanin that is highly enriched in broccoli and associated with its health-promoting properties. However, we need to eat ~1 kg of broccoli pr. week to get the health benefits of broccoli. This has primed a desire to engineer microbial production of glucosinolates as dietary supplements.

Your task (can be adjusted dependent on interest)
Our goal is to engineer the health-promoting, bioactive glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables into microbial cell factories. We are building a platform for efficient production by application of advanced synthetic biology. We currently focus on the following projects:

1)   Establishment of Crispr-based genome integration
2)   Boosting the levels of precursors and co-factors
3)   Impact of multiple copies of an entire pathway integrated into genome
4)   Transport engineering to prevent premature export of the intermediates
5)   ‘Omics-based strain optimization to increase flux through the pathway
6)   Transport engineering to ensure efficient export to increase yield, prevent feedback inhibition and reduce toxicity

Who we are: Research group of Barbara Ann Halkier in the DynaMo Center of Excellence ( We provide a stimulating, international research environment with lots of opportunities to advance your skills. Our research lab has a strong international research profile with a recent record of high impact publications.

Expectations: We expect you to be enthusiastic, dedicated and eager to learn and advance your research skills as well as oral and written presentation skills.

Methods used:Heterologous expression and characterization of enzymes/transporters, construction of multigene cassettes, engineering in multiple host organisms (tobacco, yeast, E. coli), analysis of LC-MS data, bioinformatics on ‘omics data, generation and mining of ‘omics data. The project provides a solid foundation for future work in both research labs and biotech industry by advancing skills in bioengineering of microorganisms.
Keywords:Synthetic biology, biotechnology, bioactive natural plant products, 'omics tools, microbial cell factories, pathway and transport engineering
Project home page:
Supervisor(s): Barbara Ann Halkier, co-supervisors (dependent on project): PhD students Michal Poborsky (, William Wajn (