Professor Lars Nielsen
Professor Lars Nielsen

Cand Polyt Denmark, PhD UQ
Group Leader


Telephone: +61 7 334 63986+61 7 334 63986 Email:

Research: Systems and synthetic biology

Professor Lars Nielsen is leading the development of experimental and computational tools to analyse and design complex biological systems. His expertise in metabolic modelling and flux analysis is available nowhere else in Australia – and in few labs across the world. Professor Nielsen’s studies of biological systems as diverse as bacteria, baker's yeast, sugarcane, insects and mammals has attracted industrial partnerships with companies including Dow, Metabolix, Amyris, LanzaTech, Boeing, Virgin Australia and GE. These metabolic engineering partnerships have focussed on developing new ways of producing aviation fuel, various materials and bioactives (antibiotics, biopesticides, monoclonal antibodies). Professor Nielsen is also applying system analysis and design approaches to tissue engineering including novel strategies for generating microtissues for drug screening and using stem cells to produce red and white blood cells for transfusion.

International links

Professor Nielsen collaborates with some of the world’s pre-eminent metabolic engineers. A joint project with Prof Sang Yup Lee (KAIST, Korea) enabled several extended mutual visits to explore use of sugar for higher value products. A separate project focused on producing synthetic aviation fuel based on isoprenoids involves Professor Nielsen collaborating with global synthetic biotechnology company Amyris and leading isoprenoid metabolic engineer Professor Jay Keasling, from UC Berkeley. Professor Nielsen has secured $8million since 2006 from industry through research grants with US, European, Japanese, Korean, New Zealand and Australian companies.

Memberships, patents and funding

Professor Nielsen has been granted four patents – two in stem cells and another two in metabolic engineering. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of InSphero (2009–), a Swiss company commercialising microtissue technology originating in the Nielsen laboratory. He is an editorial board member of ACS Synthetic Biology, Metabolic Engineering, Biotechnology Journal, Biotechnology and Bioengineering and Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering. Professor Nielsen formed and chaired the 2005 CRC SIIB Industrial Biotechnology Panel to develop an industrial biotechnology strategy for the Australian sugar industry. He successfully lobbied for the inclusion of Industrial Biotechnology in the Queensland Biotechnology Strategic Plan 2005-2015. Since then he has served as expert advisor to government, research bodies, domestic and major international companies such as Dow Chemical, DuPont and GS Caltex. In the past decade, he has been part of successful research grant applications totalling $56 million, with $31.2 million for his own systems and synthetic biology group at AIBN.

Awards and plenaries

Professor Nielsen has received the UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award; and the Australian Institute of Political Science Queensland Young Tall Poppy Award. He was invited to speak at the 2010 Science at the Shine Dome Symposium on Genomics & Mathematics, Canberra; and the Australian Academy of Technical Sciences & Engineering’s National Symposium on Future-Proofing Australia.

Key publications

Licona-Cassani C, Lim SA, Marcellin E, Nielsen LK (2014) Temporal dynamics of the Saccharopolyspora erythraea phosphoproteome. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics 13:1219-30. No citations. Funded through consulting.

de Oliveira Dal'molin CG, Quek LE, Palfreyman RW, Brumbley SM, Nielsen LK. (2010) AraGEM - a Genome-Scale Reconstruction of the Primary Metabolic Network in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiol 152, 579–589.

Quek L-E, Dietmair S, Krömer JO, Nielsen LK. (2010) Metabolic flux analysis in mammalian cell culture. Metabolic Engineering 12, 161-171.

Timmins NE, Palfreyman E, Marturana F, Dietmair S, Luikenga S, Lopez G, Fung YL, Minchinton R, Nielsen LK. (2009) Clinical Scale Ex vivo Manufacture of Neutrophils from Hematopoietic Progenitor Cells. Biotechnol Bioeng 104, 832-840.

Chen W, Marcellin E, Hung J, Nielsen LK. (2009) Hyaluronan molecular weight is controlled by UDP-N- acetylglucosamine concentration in Streptococcus zooepidemicus. J Biol Chem 284, 18007-18014.

Recent publications

Full list of publications available at UQ eSpace.

Professor Lars Nielsen section

AIBN Systems and Synthetic Biology

Nielsen Group: Current Research Projects

Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative

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