Professor Lars Nielsen

Senior Group Leader

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
+61 7 334 63986


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.

Research Impacts


Systems and synthetic biology. Professor Nielsen is dedicated to both the advancement of bioengineering science and its application to specific problems. Using thermodynamic principles, novel approaches are developed for handling complex, transient dynamics in developing tissue as well as rational design of complex pathways. These novel approaches are used in the design of bioprocesses as diverse as the production of blood cells for transfusion and the production of industrial biopolymers.

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.


  • Cand. Polyt., T.U.Denmark
  • PhD, The University of Queensland


View all Publications


Book Chapter

  • Dal'Molin, Cristiana G. O. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2016). Algae genome-scale reconstruction, modelling and applications. In Michael A. Borowitzka, John Beardall and John A. Raven (Ed.), The Physiology of Microalgae (pp. 591-598) Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-24945-2_22

  • Vickers, Claudia E., Behrendorff, James B. Y. H., Bongers, Mareike, Brennan, Timothy C. R., Bruschi, Michele and Nielsen, Lars K. (2015). Production of industrially-relevant isoprenoid compounds in engineered microbes. In Birgit Kamm (Ed.), Microorganisms in biorefineries (pp. 303-334) Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-662-45209-7_11

  • Quek, Lake-Ee and Nielsen, Lars K. (2014). Customization of 13C-MFA Strategy According to Cell Culture System. In Jens O. Kromer, Lars K. Nielsen and Lars M. Blank (Ed.), Metabolic Flux Analysis: Methods and Protocols (pp. 81-90) New York, NY United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-1170-7_5

  • Martínez, Veronica Sofía and Nielsen, LK (2014). NExT: integration of thermodynamic constraints and metabolomics data into a metabolic network. In Jens O. Kromer, Lars K. Nielsen and Lars M. Blank (Ed.), Metabolic Flux Analysis: Methods and Protocols (pp. 65-78) New York, NY United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-1170-7_4

  • Dal'Molin, Cristiana G. O., Quek, Lake-Ee, Palfreyman, Robin W. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2014). Plant genome-scale modeling and implementation. In DieuaideNoubhani, M and Alonso, AP (Ed.), Plant metabolic flux analysis: methods and protocols (pp. 317-332) New York, NY, United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-688-7_19

  • Quek, Lake-Ee and Nielsen, Lars K. (2014). Steady-State 13C Fluxomics Using OpenFLUX. In Jens O. Kromer, Lars K. Nielsen and Lars M. Blank (Ed.), Metabolic Flux Analysis: Methods and Protocols (pp. 209-224) New York, NY United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-1170-7_13

  • Timmins, Nicholas E. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2012). Large scale ex vivo manufacture of blood cells. In Nigel Jenkins, Niall Barron and Paula Alves (Ed.), Proceedings of the 21st Annual Meeting of the European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT), Dublin, Ireland, June 7-10, 2009 (pp. 557-571) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

  • Marcellin, Esteban, Chen, Wendy Y. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2012). Metabolic pathway engineering for hyaluronic acid production. In Peter Grundwald (Ed.), Carbohydrate modifying biocatalysts (pp. 571-584) Singapore: Pan Stanford Publishing.

  • Dietmair, Stefanie, Timmins, Nicholas E., Chrysanthopoulos, Panagiotis, Gray, Peter P., Krömer, Jens O. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2012). Metabolomic analysis of CHO cultures with different growth characteristics – development of a metabolite extraction protocol for suspension adapted mammalian cells. In Nigel Jenkins, Niall Barron and Paula Alves (Ed.), Proceedings of the 21st Annual Meeting of the European Society for Animal Cell Technology (ESACT), Dublin, Ireland, June 7-10, 2009 (pp. 37-41) Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

  • Chan, Leslie, Reid, Steven and Nielsen, Lars Keld (2010). Baculovirus kinetics, insect cell culture. In Michael C. Flickinger (Ed.), Encyclopedia of industrial biotechnology: Bioprocess, bioseparation, and cell technology (pp. 1-24) Hoboken, N.J. USA: John Wiley and Sons Inc.. doi:10.1002/9780470054581

  • Quek L-E and Nielsen LK (2009). Metabolic engineering of mammalian cells. In CD Smolke (Ed.), The Metabolic Pathway Engineering Handbook - Fundamentals (pp. 26-1-26-22) Boca Raton Florida, USA: CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group.

  • Marcellin, Esteban, Chen, Wendy and Nielsen, Lars Keld (2009). Microbial hyaluronic acid biosynthesis. In B.H.A. Rehm (Ed.), Microbial Production of Biopolymers and Polymer Precursors: Applications and Perspectives (pp. 163-180) Norfolk, UK: Caister Academic Press.

  • Timmins, Nicholas E. and Nielsen, Lars K. (2007). Generation of Multicellular Tumour Spheroids by the Hanging Drop Method. In John M. Walker (Ed.), Tissue Engineering 2 ed. (pp. 141-151) Totowa, N. J.: Humana Press.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

  • Nielsen, Lars Keld, Chen, Wendy and Saldana Marcellin, Esteban Stefane (2010). Production of hyaluronic acid. EP 2195348 A1.

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision