Helix Lab Fellows, Spring 2022

The first group of Helix Lab Fellows joined Helix Lab in January 2022. The Helix Lab Fellows have done their MSc thesis projects in collaboration with the Kalundborg industry and stayed at Kalundborg Kollegium while doing their project work. After they finished their thesis projects, six got jobs in the Kalundborg industry in permanent positions.
Alonso Malacara Becerra

Alonso Malacara Becerra

 

MSc study:

MSc in biotechnology

 

University:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU) & Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico

 

Company:

Novozymes A/S

 

Project title:

A plant-wide analysis of an industrial flocculation process in biomanufacturing

 

Project description:

The industrial wastewater treatment plant (iWWTP) from Novozymes, production site Kalundborg, processes waste streams derived from upstream fermentation and separation operations. These correspond to an organic load equivalent to a 2.4 million people city, positioning it as the largest iWWTP in Northern Europe. More than 4000 m3 of biomass slurry are dewatered every day in decanter centrifuges. Two main challenges hinder a higher level of automatization of this dewatering operation. First, upstream production results in varying biomass characteristics for each waste batch. To add to this, the particle processes behind flocculation in the dewatering units are poorly understood. This project is aimed towards developing a data-driven model for the prediction of flocculation quality in the decanters of the Novozymes iWWTP.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

I saw an opportunity to challenge myself by engaging fully in an industrial bioengineering project, in collaboration with a top international biotech company. I pictured my future self in this exact scenario during my bachelor’s degree and I knew Helix Lab was the way to fulfill this goal. The decision of participating in this while experiencing the Danish culture was a no-brainer. 

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

The feeling of being a pioneer in such an impactful program. I know that Helix Lab will be involved in the professional formation of many generations of scientists that are interested in bioproduction research, like me. So far, being a Helix Lab fellow has got me doing research in state-of-the-art facilities, in an interdisciplinary environment, and to come up with a comprehensive solution to modern biomanufacturing obstacles.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

I am pushing myself to develop new tools and knowledge, that are valuable to increase sustainability of biomanufacturing. With enough effort, I might get to be a part of one of the biotech companies from the Kalundborg Biocluster. From there, I want to keep addressing the challenges that hinder sustainability of the industry, especially related to waste reduction and revalorization.

Alvaro Pascual

 

MSc study:

MSc in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

 

University:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

 

Company:

Chr. Hansen A/S

 

Project title:

Process models, simulations, and optimizations on Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO) recovery

Alvaro Pascual

Project description:

The production process at Christian Hansen A/S is fermentation-based, and the purpose of the master study is to identify suitable process models and do full line simulations on recovery and purification in order to identify improvement opportunities. E.g. To which extent can a digital twin be constructed? Can optimal capacity on each unit be simulated? Can the order of unit operations be optimized? The flow dynamics throughout the line?  Process variation sensitivity? Holding time strategies and bioburden simulation?

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

When I first learn about the Helix Lab initiative, I found it to be a really interesting proposal to improve the experience of writing a master thesis. It was a great way to get in touch not only with companies but with other students in the same situation.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

The project I am working on is allowing me to expand my knowledge in the bioprocesses field and get a sense of how an office runs. Also, everyone related to Helix Lab has been welcoming and helpful, and the environment created is really nice.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

I believe my time in Helix Lab will provide me with some great contacts in my field of interest and a good base to get into the labour market.

Axel William Larsen

Axel William Larsen

 

MSc study:

MSc in Chemistry

 

University:

Aalborg University (AAU)

 

Company:

Novo Nordisk A/S

 

Project title:

Sustainable Water Effluent Reuse from Solvent recovery

Project description:

At Novo Nordisk, one of the main base solvents used in the API core production is ethanol (EtOH). Due to the quantities of EtOH used, it is economically evident that the EtOH is recovered for re-use. This is performed using an equilibrium-based process, distillation. Extending the limits of the process is the re-use, sustainably, of the process effluents. The process consists of two main effluents, of which one is re-used to produce a higher value product. However, the remaining effluent should be investigated. Why? This affluent, high in mass flowrate, consists mainly of water with some heavy impurities. The current state is, the effluent is first waste-water-treated on-site then second, recycled to the Kalundborg Commune Water Supply Department (KCWSD). In tandem, purified water from KCWSD is sourced and then further purified within NN for use in the API process. Therefore, can the effluent be cleaned to an extent that it can be purified within NN to meet the required specifications?

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

The desire to be part of something new with high potential and strong support for my project.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

Being able to have an important role in providing feedback as to how the Helix Lab will develop and networking with other fellows and employees in major companies.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

Invaluable experience working in a professional research lab outside the university environment and potential job opportunities and strong networking in Kalundborg.

Daniel Lopez

 

MSc study:

MSc in Bioengineering

 

University:

Aalborg University (AAU Esbjerg)

 

Company:

Novo Nordisk A/S

 

Project title:

Design of in-line measuring system for the API purification process

Daniel Lopez

Project description:

Based on an analysis of the "ideal control system", and via a soft-sensor approach, a conceptual design for an "ideal in-line based" monitoring system will be developed for an Insulin Purification process. The purpose of this is to identify ways that can be used to substitute QC Lab analysis with in-line measurements, in a cost-effective way. Being able to substitute QC samples with in-line measurements would save significant processing time and work hours in the lab. It is expected that the project will generate knowledge that can be applied for other mature insulin products/manufacturing processes as well.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

Throughout my education, I have been interested in the applications of new developments in technology to the current industry, where it can make a significant change in the world. Helix lab guarantees the collaboration between the university and the company. This allows me to benefit from the knowledge of my professors and supervisor, while at the same time also utilizing the experience from my colleagues and industry supervisor. I believe this can help me obtain the skills I need to find my ideal job after graduation.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

The vast resources available as a Helix Lab Fellow is exciting. Having immediate access to industry experts who can help with questions during your thesis is one of the best opportunities offered by Helix lab and contributes greatly to the learning process.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

Thanks to the company work experience supported by Helix Lab I know more about my aptitudes and preferences which helped me narrow down where I would like to work. I also understand the importance of the connection between academia and industry, and I will try to maintain that connection alive during my future job.

Emil Madsen

Emil Madsen

 

MSc study:

MSc in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

 

University:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

 

Company:

Novozymes A/S

 

Project title:

Real-time IoT Fermentation Sensors

Project description:

A wide range of industrial enzymes and microorganisms are produced by fermentation technology. Besides the physical conditions as temperature, pH, stirring etc., many different factors contribute to the outcome of a fermentation. Some factors are related directly to the fermentation media such as level of nutrients and carbon source; others are related to the biological process, e.g., accumulation of metabolic components and product formation. In order to understand and improve the complex parameters, there is a need for a continuous and accurate measuring of parameters using at-line sensor technology, instead of traditional sampling and subsequent analysis, typically with long response time. This project aims to investigate current sensor technologies commercially available, what can actually be measured, and what are the possibilities with modern sensor technology in fermentation today.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

I have always wanted to do my master’s thesis in collaboration with the industry and preferably one of the big companies such as Novozymes or Novo Nordisk. I also wanted to do a project related to manufacturing and production and I knew that Kalundborg was then the place to go. When I was first presented to the Helix Lab initiative I thought this was the perfect match, and I am glad that one of the offered projects was within my area of interest.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?
The most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow is the close collaboration with the industry. Novozymes is located just across the road from Helix Lab so you always have the industry in mind even when you are just doing literature search and writing on the report. In that way, you are always reminded of why you are doing the project and that is desired by the industry to get the knowledge and data that you create. What you are doing actually matters to the industry and can be put to use immediately.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

I have for a long time wanted to come to Kalundborg to work with the industry. After my project at Helix Lab I hope to be able to stay in Kalundborg working with either Novozymes or Novo Nordisk or one of the other companies located here.

HongJian Shi

 

MSc study:

MSc in Chemistry

 

University:

Aalborg University (AAU)

 

Company:

Novo Nordisk A/S

 

Project title:

Sustainable Water Effluent Reuse from Solvent recovery

HongJian Shi

Project description:

At Novo Nordisk, one of main base solvent used in the API core production is ethanol (EtOH). Due to the quantities of EtOH used, it is economically evident that the EtOH is recovered for re-use. This is performed using an equilibrium-based process, distillation. Extending the limits of the process is the re-use, sustainably, of the process effluents. The process consists of two main effluents, of which one is re-used to produce a higher value product. However, the remaining effluent should be investigated. Why? This effluent, high in mass flowrate, consists mainly of water with some heavy impurities. Current state is, the effluent is first waste-water-treated on site then second, recycled to the Kalundborg Commune Water Supply Department (KCWSD). In tandem, purified water from KCWSD is sourced and then further purified within NN for use in the API process. Therefore, can the effluent be cleaned to an extent which it can be purified within NN to meet the required specifications?

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

The desire to be part of something new with high potential and strong support for my project.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

Being able to have an important role in providing feedback as to how the Helix Lab will develop and networking with other fellows and employees in major companies.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

Invaluable experience working in a professional research lab outside the university environment and potential job opportunities and strong networking in Kalundborg.

Jacob Lund Jensen

Jacob Lund Jensen

 

MSc study:

MSc in Biotechnology

 

University:

Aalborg University (AAU)

 

Company:

Unibio

 

Project title:

Valorization of microbial protein by proteomics and bioinformatics-assisted targeted hydrolysis

Project description:

As part of the green transition and a more sustainable food sector, the search for alternative protein sources is rapidly developing. A potential solution to accelerate the transition is the use of microbial biomasses. Unibio produces feed protein by fermentation of methane metabolising bacteria, thereby decoupling protein production from farming and fishing to obtain a more sustainable protein source. The biomass was recently shown to contain abundant proteins in which part of their sequence (i.e., embedded peptides), shows great promise as functional and bioactive food ingredients. In this project, the goal is to transform the feed-grade protein product into a food-grade functional ingredient using enzymatic hydrolysis. Using proteomics and bioinformatic big data analysis, the project will develop a targeted approach for the release of these peptides and downstream enrichment for improved functionality. The processes will be upscaled in collaboration with Helix Lab and ultimately implemented in Unibio's Kalundborg Demonstration Plant.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

I was an intern at a different company (MipSalus) in my bachelor's and I found the opportunity to learn outside of the University very exciting. So, the possibility to do it again in my master’s was very pleasing, why it was a must for me to apply for the position as Helix Lab Fellow. The opportunity to get a larger network in the main biotech city in Denmark, while developing my own skills was also a great motivator. 

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

Getting to see both the academic and industrial side of Kalundborg and Unibio. Our industrial supervisor has been very good in involving us in Unibio and its facilities. As the lab is quite new and some things are still missing due to delivering times, it has been quite nice to use our engineering skills and find workarounds. As Jesper also said, the possibility to make inputs in the required equipment is also nice.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

As one of my motivators for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow was to increase my network in Kalundborg, I see myself using this to hopefully land a job in Kalundborg – would be lovely to continue this project at Unibio if they would allow it. Another great thing, I am learning as a Helix Lab Fellow is to involve both the industry and academia to solve problems – thus getting insight into how both work and which difficulties/workarounds can be used in each section of work. Lastly, it has confirmed my interest in the biotech world, as you get to see the industry up close instead of “just working in a university lab”, which often doesn’t mimic all the responsibilities you get working in the industry.

Jesper Skovmark

 

MSc study:

MSc in Biotechnology

 

University:

Aalborg University (AAU)

 

Company:

Unibio

 

Project title:

Valorization of microbial protein by proteomics and bioinformatics-assisted targeted hydrolysis

Jesper Skovmark

Project description:

As part of the green transition and a more sustainable food sector, the search for alternative protein sources is rapidly developing. A potential solution to accelerate the transition is the use of microbial biomasses. Unibio produces feed protein by fermentation of methane metabolising bacteria, thereby decoupling protein production from farming and fishing to obtain a more sustainable protein source. The biomass was recently shown to contain abundant proteins in which part of their sequence (i.e., embedded peptides), show great promise as functional and bioactive food ingredients. In this project, the goal is to transform the feed-grade protein product into a food-grade functional ingredient using enzymatic hydrolysis. Using proteomics and bioinformatic big data analysis, the project will develop a targeted approach for release of these peptides and downstream enrichment for improved functionality. The processes will be upscaled in collaboration with Helix Lab and ultimately implemented in Unibio's Kalundborg Demonstration Plant.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

I always wanted to have a semester abroad in for instance Australia, and since Covid19 but that to a hold, this was a big opportunity to try something new. The fact the Helix Lab fellowship combines academia and industry is interesting, and it allows you to see the best of both worlds and how they really can support each other.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

It is quite exciting to balance the collaboration at the company with the work at Helix Lab. Otherwise the fact that it is a brand-new laboratory at Helix Lab also makes it interesting, as we can make input and have sayings in what equipment is relevant to have in a laboratory.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

As we at Aalborg University make a one-year master thesis, you learn the interesting part of doing research, you conduct experiments that you yourself design and optimize, which gives a lot of freedom. These aspects make me interested in doing more research and doing a PhD. I have also found a big interest in the industry, so I am still torn between working in the industry and doing a PhD.

Karl-Kristian Kaether

Karl-Kristian Kaether

 

MSc study:

MSc Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

 

University:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

 

Company:

Novozymes A/S

 

Project title:

Project: Open Source SCADA and DCS Edge/Cloud

Project description:

The project aims to investigate the possibility to shift from commercial SCADA and DC systems in the biotech industry to Open Source solutions. Open Source software can enable companies to develop their own tailor-made solutions. Hence the student will conduct a literature study examining the possible programming frameworks and choose the most promising one based on criteria like code maintenance and potential applicability in the industry. Next, the student will use the chosen framework to develop software to control fermentation. It will be deployed via an edge device controlling a fermentation tank.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

I like the possibility to combine the investigative work of a thesis with the development of technology which could potentially be useful for industrial applications. Moreover, it is exciting to work on the realisation of industry 4.0 in the biotech sector. Helix Lab promises to provide a good work environment for that.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

The possibility to develop engineering solutions with modern equipment and in collaboration with industry.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

Further developing engineering and scientific skills with an industry 4.0 application will open up many possibilities. Helix Lab allows us to engage in an industry-driven project and can therefore provide an insight into the respective industry.

Katrine Esmann Pedersen

 

MSc study:

MSc Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

 

University:

University of Southern Denmark (SDU)

 

Company:

Novo Nordisk A/S

 

Project title:

Characterization of the crystallization step in the API recovery process

Katrine Esmann Pedersen

Project description:

A typical process for the core production of an API – Insulin consists of three main stages: fermentation, recovery, and purification. In the last two steps of the recovery process, the API is crystallized in a mixing tank by pH adjustment and adding anti-solvent. Then, the crystallized API is captured and separated from the suspension using filtration. In the current state, the operating conditions have been fixed over time, even though other conditions have changed upstream.

Therefore, the opportunity to find the most optimal operating conditions for the crystallization step should be investigated. The crystallization step affects the performance of the downstream filtration and plays an important role in the capacity of the recovery process, in terms of mass and time. In the future state, the crystallization step must be characterized (solubility curve, crystal size distribution, etc.) to be able to define the operating space and perform the optimization of the operating conditions.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

My main motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow was to establish a close relationship with the industry. Through my studies, I have prioritised my education and thereby I have focused less on gaining working experience through study-related jobs. I, therefore, saw the Helix Lab Fellowship as an extraordinary opportunity to gain insight into the everyday life of engineers employed in a large company. In addition, I greatly enjoy the real-life aspect that the collaboration between industry and university brings to my master thesis.

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

In my opinion, one of the greatest aspects of being a Helix Lab Fellow is that you expand your network and become part of different teams - both in the industry, at Helix Lab, and at the dorm. Hereby, you are surrounded by people who can support you during your project - both professionally and socially.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

By being a Helix Lab Fellow, I have already had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time at the company - working alongside both engineers in the office buildings and process operators, etc. in the production facilities. This has greatly improved my understanding of what is expected of me in a working environment, but also what I expect from a workplace as a newly educated engineer. In addition, I believe that by meeting people in different departments, with different job titles, and different working fields, I have gained a better understanding of what I desire to use my education for. I believe that this will be a great benefit for me when I start my working career.

Milad Javadi

Milad Javadi

 

MSc study:

MSc in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

 

University:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

 

Company:

Novo Nordisk A/S

 

Project title:

Investigation of sustainable sludge re-use from API fermentation

Project description:

A typical process for the core production of an API – Insulin consists of three main stages: fermentation, recovery, and purification. The recovery stage separates the biomass from the fermentation mixture by a series of disc centrifuges. These centrifuges split the fermentation mixture into a light stream, containing the API, and into a heavy stream, containing the biomass sludge. In the current state, this biomass sludge is sent to a GMO waste treatment system before it is sent to Kalundborg Bioenergy plant and turned into fertilizer and biogas. However, it would be interesting to extend the limits of this process and re-use, sustainably, the sludge, to a more value adding product. Why should this be investigated? The sludge is high in mass flowrate and consists mainly of yeast cells. This project aims to investigate if the possible future state can be an internal site recycle system, i.e., if the sludge can be processed and transformed into a new value-added product for Novo Nordisk.

 

What was your motivation for becoming a Helix Lab Fellow?

Helix lab provides a firm network between students and experts in the industry. The equipment, infrastructure, and support they provide, besides the support from one’s own supervisors, is a very important factor for conducting high-quality research. 

 

What is the most exciting part of being a Helix Lab Fellow?

There are many exciting things one can experience during helix lab fellowship. For me, the thriving environment, and the human network that the program is trying to establish is the most exciting part of being in the program. The opportunity to meet other student from different universities and cities, talking about each other’s research, and familiarizing with their insights is very unique.  Nevertheless, the scheduled events for visiting industrial sites and experts are also a part of the program that I am looking very forward to.

 

What perspectives do you see for your future after being a Helix Lab Fellow?

I can say helix lab have influenced my perspective from different angles. The most obvious one is the connections that I have found and will find during the program. The fact is all students during their thesis time plan for their future path whether they pursue a career in industry or in academia. I think Helix lab provides a chance to experience both being in academic environment meantime establishing network with industry experts. All this can lead to a better choice for future path.