Synthetic Biology

Plants and algae are the green chemists par excellence on planet Earth. They produce an immense number of bioactive natural products based on CO2 and solar energy. Many of these natural products play crucial roles in plant growth and adaptation to environmental challenges like climate change and are essential components as medicinal compounds, health promoting agents, flavors and fragrances.

Our group elucidates how key natural products are formed, stored and remobilized to exert their on-demand specific biological functions in plants.

Using Synthetic Biology and in collaboration with nature, we aim to develop algae and plants as future powerhouses for light-driven synthesis of desired high value compounds and bulk chemicals and facilitate transition to a bio-based society.

Our Synthetic Biology approach integrates legal studies, bioethics and communication to equip society and scientists to take part in constructive dialogues on new technologies and Responsible Research and Innovation.





  • Formation and biological function of natural products: Cyanogenic & hydroxynitrile glucosides
    The formation, storage, remobilization and bio-activation of cyanogenic glucosides and hydroxynitrile glucosides in barley and sorghum with focus on their functions as plant defense compounds and storage forms of reduced nitrogen.
    Contact: Assistant Professor Mette Sørensen
  • Moon-lighting functions of CYP79 family enzymes
    Cytochrome P450 functionalities with special focus on the possible moon-lightning functions of CYP79s involving formation of N-hydroxylated compounds with signaling or hormonal activities.
    Contact: Assistant Professor Mette Sørensen
  • Wild crop relatives in breading crops and fodder plants for the future
    Wild crop relatives in breading crops and fodder plants for the future with focus on wild sorghums from Australia devoid of the cyanogenic glucosides in their leaves and based on genome sequencing of selected species.
    Contact: Professor Birger Lindberg Møller
  • Storage of bioactive natural products using NADES
    The role of Natural Deep Eutectic Solvents (NADES) in the storage of bioactive natural products in living cells without auto-toxicity using accumulation of vanillin glucoside in in the vanilla pod and the cyanogenic glucoside dhurrin in sorghum as experimental systems.
    Contact: Post doctoral fellow Rocio Ochoa Fernandez


  • Light-Driven Production in micro-algae
    Transfer of entire biosynthetic pathways to Nannochloropis algae to obtain direct light-driven synthesis of high-value products with carbon dioxide from the air as the sole carbon source.
    Contact: Assistant Professor Johan Andersen-Ranberg
  • Pigment biosynthesis in marine algae
    Understand the biosynthesis of cryptic pigments from marine algae that are essential for >20% of global primary production.
    Contact: Assistant Professor Johan Andersen-Ranberg



  • Pathway discovery of high-value compounds
    Plant pathway discovery of interesting high-value natural products: Triptolide, triptonide and carminic acid
    Contact: Assistant Professor Johan Andersen-Ranberg
    Vanillin, stevia glucosides, carminic acid, forskolin, celastrol, glucosides, cannabinoids and non-addictive opioid pain killers.
    Contact: Professor Birger Lindberg Møller  
  • Desert-loving therapeutics: Compounds from the Australian Eremophila
    Identification of cis-type diterpenoids and other classes of bioactive natural products with interesting therapeutic properties within the Eremophila genus in the Western Australian desert.
    Contact: Professor Birger Lindberg Møller
  • Evolution of marsupial gut microbiomes with special focus on the koala microbiomeand its role in detoxification of toxic metabolites in eucalypts leaves.
    Contact person: Birger Lindberg Møller
  • Genome sequencing and annotation of ancient grains of broomcorn millet from the Areni-1 cave in Armenia with focus on the organization of genes involved in natural product biosynthesis.
    Contact person: Birger Lindberg Møller



  • Ethics, communication and legal aspects related to synthetic biology such as gene editing technologies
    Contact: Research coordinator Nanna Heinz/Professor Birger Lindberg Møller







Birger Lindberg Møller

  • Carlsberg Foundation, Semper Ardens: Crops for the Future. Focus on development of resilient crop plants for the future using the FIND-IT technology

  • NNF-Distinguished Investigator: The Black Holes in the Plant Universe. Focus on how plants store high-value compounds in dense bio-condensates

  • VILLUM Experiment: Plants’ Black Diamonds. Focus on a possible role of natural deep eutectic solvents in plants

  • Lundbeck Foundation: Brewing Diterpenoids. Focus on diterpenoids as drug leads for treatment of movement related diseases as Parkinson´s and Alzheimer´s.

  • NNF-Interdisciplinary Synergy Program: Desert-loving Therapeutics with focus on identification of diterpenoids and other classes of bioactive natural products with interesting therapeutic properties within Eremophila species in the Western Australian desert
  • Australian Research Council: Australia’s native sorghums discovering new wild crop relatives with focus on wild sorghum species and genome sequencing of the most interesting wild species

Johan Andersen-Ranberg

  • NNF emerging investigator, algae bioproduction
  • NNF Pioneer grant, triptonide production
  • Innovation foundation triptolide for rodent pest management

Mette Sørensen

  • NNF postdoctoral fellowship 2021 within Plant Science, Agriculture and Food Biotechnology - project 'Climate Ready Crop Plants'.



















Partners and networks

  • My collaboration and interaction with many different types of researchers results in a highly interdisciplinary and active research environment fostered by mutual visits between the labs. In addition to the basic research that we do, we like to see our research applied and therefore we collaborate with many different types of industries. Below you will find a list of some of our collaborators.




























University of Queensland: Phil Hugenholtz (koala microbiome), Ben Hankamer (light driven P450s), Elizabeth Gillam (ancestral sequence reconstruction). Robert J. Henry (wild sorghums, bioproduction), Currently funded by Australian Research Council

University of Melbourne: Ian Woodrow (eucalypt terpenoids), Mike Bayly (plant systematics, chloroplast genome sequencing), Roslyn Gleadow (sorghum ecophysiology)

University of South Australia: Susan Semple (natural products chemistry , inhibitors of multidrug resistant bacteria, and aboriginal contact person)

University of Perth: Bevan Buirchell (botanist, Eremophila expert)

Australian Grains Genebank: Sally L. Norton


Seedtek Pty. Ltd.: Peter Stuart



Institut de biologie moléculaire des Plantes (IBMP) Strasbourg: Daniele Werck 


Karlsruhe Institute for Architectural design, Art and Theory. bioARTJens Hauser (green transition),

Johannes-Gutenberg-University: Martin Lohr

Technical University of Munich: Corinna Dawid

The James Hutton Institute: Kelly Houston

University of Tennessee, Memphis: David R. Nelson, Texas A&M University: John E. Mullet, University of California: Robert Jinkerson, Krishna Niyogi UNC Charlotte: Tingting Xiang,

The University of British Columbia: Joerg Bohlmann,


Faculty of Science (UCPH)Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences:

Nanna Bjarnholt (MS-imaging technologies)

Tomas Laursen (metabolic plasticity)

Elizabeth Heather Nielson (ecophysiology)

Department of Chemistry
Nikos Hatzakis (single molecule studies)

Faculty of Health (UCPH Department of Food Science

Søren Balling Engelsen (chemometrics); Poul Erik Jensen (photosynthesis, algae)

Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
Claus Juhl Løland (neurotransmitters)

Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology
Dan Stærk (NMR structure elucidation)


Faculty of Law (UCPH Center for Information and Innovation Law
Timo Minssen (biomedical innovation law)
Helen Yu (responsible research and innovation)






Technical Univeristy of Denmark (DTU) Department of Technology, Management and Economics:                                                           Maja Horst



Carlsberg Research Laboratory

Birgitte Skadhauge, Christoph Dockter, Søren Knudsen (FIND-IT technology, sorghum and barley genetics)


Evolva Biotech

Octaine – CEO and co-founder Nethaji J. Gallage (cannabinoids)

River Stone Biotech  Esben Halkjær, Jørgen Hansen (opioid derivatives)

TriotoBIO – Co-founder & CTO Johan Andersen Ranberg

Aalborg University: Professor MSO David Budtz Pedersen, Social responsibility and ethics, interdisciplinary research)

National Film School of Denmark, Documentary Film maker Phie Ambo (film contributions),

Roskilde University: Associate professor Alfred Birkegaard Hansted

Martin Malthe Borch etc.

Spin-out companies: Octarine Bio (Nethaji J Gallage); Tripto-Bio (Johan Andersen-Ranberg) Evodia Bio (Victor Forman)

We have a large number of important additional collaborators who may be identified from our joint publications.




  • C.C. Hansen, M. Sørensen, M. Bellucci, W. Brandt, C.E. Olsen, J.Q.D. Goodger, I.E. Woodrow, B.L. Møller, E.H.J. Neilson: Recruitment of distinct UDP-glucosyltransferase families demonstrates dynamic evolution of chemical defense within Eucalyptus. New Phytologist 237:999-1013 (2022) in press

  • Knudsen , T. Wendt, C. Dockter, H.C. Thomsen, M. Rasmussen, M.E. Jørgensen, ……… B.L. Møller, G.B. Fincher, B. Skadhauge: FIND-IT: Accelerated trait development for a green evolution. Science Advances 2022;8(34):eabq2266;

  • B. Jensen, S. Thodberg, S. Parween, M.E. Moses, C.C. Hansen, J. Thomsen, M.B. Sletfjerding, C. Knudsen, R.D. Giudice, P.M. Lund, P.R. Castaño, Y.G. Bustamante, M.N.R. Velazquez, F.S. Jørgensen, A.V. Pandey, T. Laursen, B.L. Møller, N.S. Hatzakis: Biased cytochrome P450-mediated metabolism via small-molecule ligands binding P450 oxidoreductase. Nature Communications 12: 2260 (2021);

  • Sánchez-Pérez, S. Pavan, R. Mazzeo, C. Moldovan, RA Cigliano, J. Del Cueto, F. Ricciardi, C. Lotti, L. Ricciardi, F. Dicenta, R.L. López-Marqués, B. L. Møller: Mutation of a bHLH transcription factor allowed almond domestication. SCIENCE 364: 1095-1098 (2019);

  • Sørensen, E.H.J. Neilson, B.L. Møller: Oximes: Unrecognized Chameleons in General and Specialized Plant Metabolism. Molecular Plant 11: 95-117 (2018);

  • Kannangara, L. Siukstaite, J. Borch-Jensen, B. Madsen, K.T. Kongstad, D. Stærk, M. Bennedsen, F.T. Okkels, S.A. Rasmussen, T.O. Laursen, R.J.N. Frandsen, B.L. Møller: Characterization of a membrane-bound C-glucosyltransferase responsible for carminic acid biosynthesis in Dactylopius coccus Costa. Nature Communications 8: 1987 (2017);
  • Laursen, J. Borch, C. Knudsen, K. Bavishi, F. Torta, H.J. Martens, D. Silvestro, N.S. Hatzakis, M.R. Wenk, T.R. Dafforn, C.E. Olsen, M.S. Motawia, B. Hamberger, B.L. Møller, J.E. Bassard: Characterization of a dynamic metabolon producing the defense compound dhurrin in sorghum. Science 354: 890-893 (2016);


  • B.R. Hamberger, J. Andersen-Ranberg, N.B. Jensen, I. Pateraki, B.L. Møller: Biosynthesis of acetylated 13R-MO and related compounds. Application number PA 2015 70330, submission May 29 (2015).

  • B.R. Hamberger, J. Andersen-Ranberg, I. Pateraki, B.L. Møller: Enzymatic acetylation of deacetylforskolin to forskolin Application number: 521-0308/15-7000. Submission date: February 3rd 2015.

  • B.R. Hamberger, J. Andersen-Ranberg, N.B. Jensen, I. Pateraki, B.L. Møller: CYP76AH16 involved in oxidation of epoxylabdanes. Application number: 521-0262 14-7000, submission October 28 (2014).
  • B.R. Hamberger, J. Andersen-Ranberg, I. Pateraki, B.L. Møller: CYP76AH16 involved in Oxidation of epoxylabdanes. Application number: 521-0262/14-7000. Submission date: September 28th 2014.

  • B.L. Møller, E.H. Hansen, N.J. Gallage, J. Hansen: Microbial organism and methods for producing vanillin, vanillyl alcohol, or vanillin glucoside, by vanillin synthase action on ferulic acid. USA International Patent Application PCT/DK2013/050357. Submission date: November 5th 2013.

  • C.K.M. Blomstedt, A.D. Neale, J.D. Hamill, R.M. Gleadow, B.L. Møller, P. Stuart: Novel Stock Feed Crop Plant. Unites States Patent Application No. 61/466358. Submission date: 22nd March 2011





Birger Lindberg Møller


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Birger Lindberg Møller Professor +4535333352 E-mail
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