Novo Nordisk Foundation Awards $27 Million to Improve Bioindustry and Green Activities

bioindustrial production

The Denmark-based Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a $27 million grant to be shared between North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The funds will be used to support an international research and education collaboration to create new bioindustrial processes using biotechnology and educational programs for students and staff in the industry. They are designed to optimize bioindustrial production and advance a green transformation.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation is the charitable arm of the biopharmaceutical company. This is not the first partnership with North Carolina State University this year. In June, the foundation launched a collaborative Crop Resilience Program (CCRP) with the university with $30 million. The six-year project will study microbes and their effect on plant health and productivity.

The foundation notes that the biopharmaceutical industry is currently in a crucial phase where increasing demand for its products requires more efficient manufacturing, which also requires innovation and highly qualified staff.

“We must now explore what biotechnology can do for the industry,” said Claus Felby, head of Life Science Research and Industrial Applications Promoting Sustainability for the Novo Nordisk Foundation. “Biotechnology is developing rapidly, and many opportunities exist that the biopharmaceutical industry has not yet exploited. Further, this industry has high value creation, which enables it to bear the costs associated with transforming new discoveries into practical industrial applications.”

The grant will run more than five years and includes nine research projects in biopharma production processes. A new educational program will be developed in the first 18 months, creating eight courses. It is projected that a total of 1,300 specialists, 600 at NCSU and 700 at DTU, will complete the courses during the rest of the grant period.

“There is demand for expertise in biopharmaceutical production technologies, and NCSU complements the more traditional biotechnology fermentation technologies and upstream processes in which we excel at DTU,” said Bjarke Bak Christensen, head of the Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine at DTU. “The strengths of NCSU are especially linked to the later stages in manufacturing biopharmaceutical products on which DTU has focused less intensely. We are therefore looking forward to the collaboration. By establishing mobility grants for students and developing common course material and research projects, we have great expectations that we can further strengthen the competencies of our researchers and students in biopharmaceutical production.”

The projects are also expected to have an impact on efforts by the foundation and Novo Nordisk for green, energy-efficient manufacturing processes.

“Once developed and implemented on an industrial scale, these biotechnological processes and methods could be extended to other and possibly less profitable areas, such as within green transformation, especially phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with biological solutions,” Felby stated. “The biopharmaceutical industry is the icebreaker that can accelerate the green transition.”

In April, Novo Nordisk announced that it expects to hit its target to use only renewable electricity in its global production facilities by 2020. The announcement was made shortly after the installation of a 672-acre solar panel installation in North Carolina. This is expected to power the company’s entire U.S. operations beginning early next year.

This is part of the RE100 program, which is a collaborative, global initiative of businesses that agree to use 100% renewable electricity. Novo Nordisk is the first pharmaceutical company in RE100 to use only renewable electricity in production.

The company also announced a new target—zero carbon dioxide emissions from all operations and transport by 2030. It is part of the “Circular for Zero” environmental strategy whose goal is for the company to have zero environmental impact. It will attempt to minimize consumption and recycle waste into resources, and design and manufacture products that can be recovered and re-used, while working with suppliers to “embed circularity” in the supply chain.

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