Prof. Morton Sommer

Morten-SommerI got my Masters (University of Copenhagen) in Physics and Biophysics and my PhD (Harvard University) in Biophysics. During my PhD I became fascinated by bacteria and the incredibly biological diversity they comprise. I began to study their potential for harm (antibiotic resistance and bacterial pathogens) as well as they potential for addressing
some of the societal challenges (biobased production of chemicals and synthetic biology). Since 2010, I have been a professor in systems biology (Technical University of Denmark), where my lab works on improving our understanding of bacterial systems in order to address challenges within healthcare and industrial biotechnology.

About our lab

My lab at the Technical University of Denmark currently hosts 7 PhD students and 7 post docs and 1 research technician. The lab is split into two different sections focusing on human health and industrial biotechnology, respectively. However, we have several collaborative projects that bridge between the two application areas. In general we like to develop methods to assess large amounts of biological diversity ranging from environmental resistomes, combinatorial pathway assemblies to multiplex genome engineering libraries. At a recent retreat the lab defined its values as impactful, curious and open-minded.

More information about our lab

About the project

Project 10: A major obstacle during large scale fermentations is that heterogeneity develops within the population leading to suboptimal yields. Subpopulations that do not produce as much of the desired chemical take over the fermentation, since they are more fit than highly producing cells. We wish to characterize these processes from a population level and a single cell level using sensitivity biosensors and single cell genomics. Our goal is to understand the general paths that lead to such drift and develop new approaches to counteracting this evolutionary challenge.

Project 11: We have deployed synthetic selection systems based on biosensors to couple cellular survival to production of a particular compound. Such systems are very useful for metabolic engineering projects in order to select compound producing cells from complex and diverse libraries. In order to apply this cellular technology to the optimization of biological cell factories it is necessary to develop general approaches by which the sensitivity of such synthetic networks can be tuned to gradually increase the production requirements. Using such systems we can continue to select for higher producing cells and thereby accelerate the development of cell factories.