Group Leader: Thomas Ostenfeld Larsen
Microorganisms and plants have an extraordinary capability to produce structural diverse and unique natural products. For centuries, these compounds (also called secondary metabolites) have been used as colorants, perfumes, flavors, antibiotics and other drugs. With the rise of the genomic era, it is now clear that nature’s potential to produce natural products is much larger than previously estimated, as many biosynthetic pathways are not expressed under laboratory conditions.
Several activities in our group are aimed at developing new techniques and strategies towards discovery of novel bioactive compounds from filamentous fungi, marine bacteria and algae, including both potential new drugs and biotoxins. Key technologies that we use are different analytical and semi-preparative chromatographic instrumentations, coupled to mass spectrometric and diode array detection for dereplication and isolation of pure compounds for NMR structural elucidation.
Another aim of the group is to increase the basic understanding of secondary metabolism in important fungal model organisms such as Aspergillus nidulans and A. niger, including projects on polyketides, non-ribosomal peptides, and terpenoids. Based on our general understanding of secondary metabolism in filamentous fungi and our rapidly expanding access to full genomes, we have recently initiated synthetic biology activities towards design and engineering of biosynthetic pathways towards novel anticancer products.
Our vision is to discover novel biological active natural products, to understand their role in chemical ecology, and to elucidate and engineer their biosynthetic pathways to improve human health and quality of life. To achieve this we collaborate substantially with other research groups at DTU Systems Biology and DTU Chemistry, as well as with several international partners.