Nikolaj Lervad Hansen

Nikolaj Lervad Hansen


Triptolide is a plant metabolite of the diterpene class that shows strong cytotoxic properties on human cancer cell lines. Human clinical trials have already evaluated the efficacy of Triptolide as a therapeutic for various cancers, with results generally concluding that Triptolide displays severe side effects due to toxicity. However, a recent mouse-model trial on pancreatic cancer treatment with minnelide (phosphorylated triptolide-derivative) showed dramatic tumor size reduction and substantial survival rates. Minnelide is as a consequence of the encouraging results from mice currently tested in a human clinical trial for treatment of advanced gastrointestinal tumors (including pancreatic cancer’s).

Triptolide is found in the Chinese medicinal herb Tripterygium Wilfordii that belongs to the order Celastrales. Due to very low yields of triptolide (0,001%) in plant isolates, low growth rates and a constricted habitat for T. wilfordii, efforts has been put into cell culture systems and total synthesis of triptolide.

In my PhD project the focus is on decoding the enzymatic pathway to triptolide in T. wilfordii. As it is part of the “Plant Power” consortia the knowledge that is gained during the project will be used further. The final vision for the the "Plant Power" consortia is to build an economically feasible and bio-sustainable production platform for valuable plant diterpenes by means of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering.


Link for Plant Power project homepage:

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