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Dr. Nico J. Claassens is an Associate Professor at the Laboratory of Microbiology, The Netherlands. A core activity of his Microbial Synthetic Metabolism group is to develop new more rational ways of engineering metabolism and synthetic cells using techniques such as targetted multiplex genetic engineering and quantitative proteomics. A lot of the research in his group focuses on designing and engineering synthetic pathways to support the efficient use of next-generation, sustainable feedstocks, including CO2 and one-carbon-substrates, such as formate, methanol and hydrogen. With his research he also wants to contribute to the development of biotechnology to produce carbon-based products more sustainbly using CO2 and green electricity as abundant feestocks. A specific product class he is interested in is the production of food proteins and other food substances. Hence, he is also an advisor to the start-up company Farmless, sharing this vision. Fundamental questions his group is interested in focus on how genes and genomes can be build more rationally to realize 'synthetic cells', this research is linked to the national Building A Synthetic Cell (BaSyC) Gravitation program.
After obtaining his PhD at Wageningen University in 2017, Nico worked as Postdoctoral Fellow from 2017 till 2019 at the Max Planck Institute Potsdam, Germany with Dr. Arren Bar-Even, supported by a Rubicon fellowship of the Dutch Science Organisation (NWO). In 2020 he became Assistant Professor at Wageningen Univeristy, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2023. Nico has a broad experience in teaching, e.g. by coordinating the iGEM Synthetic Biology competition team and teaching in several courses at Wageningen University as well as co-organizing the biyearly Synthetic Biology in Action course at EMBO. Nico likes to engage in science communication, for example as a former blogger for Faces of Science (KNAW) and interviews in several newspapers and tv programs. In 2019 he obtained a prestigious NWO-Veni grant for talented junior researchers and in 2022 he was awarded the NVBMB Prize by the Dutch Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In 2021 he co-founded SynBioNL, the Dutch Synthetic Biology Association, to which he acts as advisory board member. Nico is a board member Microbial Biotechnology sections of both KNVM (Royal Dutch Academy of Microbiology) and NBV (Dutch Biotechnology Association). Nico serves as Associate Editor for the journal Microbial Cell Factories. Since 2020 Nico has been a member of Wageningen Young Academy, an interdisciplinary platform of early-career researchers at Wageningen University, focussing on improving the scientific environment at the university, as well as organizing outreach activities to connect to society.