Molecular Evolution of specialized metabolism

Plants have evolved an astounding diversity of biochemical innovations to fine tune biotic interactions. These specialized compounds are involved in both beneficial interactions of plants with other organisms and in the chemical arms race between plants and their pests, as well as having an untapped potential for biotechnological solutions in the green transition.

Our group combines classical biochemistry, metabolomics, molecular biology and molecular evolution to decode how evolution works at the molecular and biochemical level. The current projects focus on saponins as potential bio-pesticides for sustainable agriculture to substitute synthetic pesticides (EcoSap), having both a basic science angle, a link to the Green Transition, and environmental impact (SapFate).

The projects bring together research groups within plant biochemistry, membrane biophysics, environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, and microbial interactions in soil. We are also developing Chenopodium album (goosefoot) from a common widespread saponin-containing weed to a nutritious high protein crop for food security (Crop for the Future).


  • Evolution of triterpenoid saponin biosynthetic pathways

  • How triterpenoid saponin structural diversity impacts ecological function

  • The potential of saponins as biopesticides in the Green Transition

  • Mode of action of saponins on membranes and ecotoxicology markers

  • Application of triterpenoid saponins as pharmaceuticals or biopesticides via metabolic engineering of plants, in vitro cell cultures, and yeast cells

  • Saponins and development of new crops from weeds

    For students wishing to work within these topics,. M.Sc. and B.Sc. projects are currently available. Please contact Søren at or Pablo at










Group members

Navn Titel Telefon E-mail
Jan Günther Postdoc +4535330601 E-mail
Jincheng Shen Indskrevet ph.d.-studerende +4535321078 E-mail
Malbor Dervishi Ph.d.-stipendiat +4535329391 E-mail
Niels Agerbirk Lektor +4535333723 E-mail
Pablo D. Cárdenas Adjunkt +4535333289 E-mail
Rajeswari Gopal Geetha Postdoc +4535334544 E-mail
Søren Bak Professor +4535333346 E-mail

Research group leader

Søren Bak
+45 35 33 33 46