Nielsen was handed his third and final prize of the month by the Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis during an official ceremony in Tel Aviv on 31 October. The Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize has been awarded for five years to researchers who lead the world in the development of alternative fuels. Nielsen, who is Professor of Quantitative Systems Biology at Chalmers, was rewarded for his work on the production of hydrocarbons from yeast, thus developing new biofuels. He shared the $1 million prize money with this year’s other prize-winner: Jean-Marie Tarascon from the Collège de France.
“My research team has had great success in redirecting the metabolism in ordinary baker’s yeast to produce chemical components that can be used in biofuel for cars, diesel for trucks and jet fuel for aircraft. Our research covers the entire spectrum, which I think played a significant role in the winning of this award,” says Nielsen.
Earlier in October he was presented with the “Energy Frontiers Award” by the Italian oil company ENI for the same type of research. And only a week before the trip to Israel he was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) for his innovative and creative research in systems biology. Three prestigious prizes in one month. A complete hat-trick – how does it feel?
“It’s fantastic, so overwhelming that you can’t put it into words. I found out that I was going to be awarded the Israeli prize a month or so ago. It all went really quickly.”
He also thinks that the yeast-based production of new biofuels, which could compete with petroleum-based fuels, could be brought to the market relatively rapidly.
“We’ve got quite far with our research. Industrial implementation is more dependent on political decisions and economics than on technological development. If a decision were made to do this, we could have a product out on the market in five to eight years,” he says. Read more: The Eric and Sheila Samson Prize 2017Press release about IVA’s Great Gold Medal 2017Energy award to Jens Nielsen for biofuels from yeastJens Nielsen