5 Minutes With…Gernot Abel from Novozymes
“We are a catalyst for developing biological solutions that give better business and improve use of earth’s resources.”
Denmark-headquartered Novozymes is a well-known leader for biological solutions and it specialises in producing enzyme and microbial technologies. The company maintains that its innovations enable higher agricultural yields, low-temperature washing, renewable fuel and more. It is currently adding more strings to its bow by looking into the synthetic biology space. And, it wants to remain the undisputed leader in bioinnovation for many years to come.
Here, Bio Insight Markets’ Liz Gyekye caught up with Gernot Abel, Science Manager at Novozymes.
Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind Novozymes?
Gernot Abel (GA): Novozymes is a biotech company at heart. In 1941, we launched our first enzyme product to softens leather. Since then, Novozymes has continued to develop solutions across a broad range of industries such as Food & Beverages, Household Care, Animal Nutrition, Agriculture and Technical Industries. As a company, we are driven to find biological answers to improve life in a growing world. Today, we’re striving to push the boundaries of bio-innovation even further, for example with the new field of synthetic biology.
LG: How are you involved in the synthetic biology space?
GA: The synthetic biology space is a very interesting area for Novozymes. We see technologies emerging, that can support the development of our next generation products. We’re still in the early-stage when it comes to scaling synthetic biology applications with industrial processes. Synthetic biology is a multidisciplinary ecosystem, attracting a range of people with diverse interests and skillsets. Right now, synthetic biology is a creative melting pot of technology and biology.
At Novozymes we are scouting synthetic biology tools and evaluate their potential in R&D. I work closely across industries identifying synergies with automation, sensor technologies, developing and testing innovative new applications for Novozymes.
LG: What were you doing before you took up this role?
GA: I have been working with biotech and automation for over twenty years. More recently, I have been working with different biotech and synthetic biology start-ups around the world. I am also a mentor with IndieBio, helping the best and brightest life-science innovations to market. You could say that the interface between biology and technology has always been my playground.
LG: What is Novozymes doing next?
GA: We’re rolling out our updated business strategy, which is about creating impact through cutting-edge innovations and emerging technologies. There are three new strategic opportunity areas for Novozymes, and it’s about being ready to act on these opportunities. For example, we’re working on providing alternative speciality proteins for food ingredients, delivering one-health solutions for human health and invest in removing emerging contaminants in water.
I’m personally involved in developing Novozymes’ new HelloScience platform. HelloScience is an open innovation platform, focused on finding sustainable solutions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Novozymes’ approach with HelloScience is to build an ecosystem of collaborators, partners, and experts, all committed to SDG innovation. The new platform will be ready in September.
LG: What advice would you give to somebody looking to get involved in this sector?
GA: First, you need to be mindful about how to scale your products. Second, you need to have a solid knowledge management and use your network as GPS in designing & finding the optimal track. Third, you need IP protection. Fourth, you need to be flexible and be open for change. Don’t bank on your first proposition getting you all the way through. Fifth, ask yourself ‘how do you incorporate services into the products you deliver?’ For instance, you could use A.I. to help inform your customer about the improvements they get from your products.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainability product?
GA: For me this is iGEM one of the greatest communities in the the synbio ecosystem. The iGEM Foundation is an independent organisation, dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology and is arranging a global competition every year. IGEM inspires entrepreneurs in the synthetic biology community to build the next big product.