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Lifelong learning as scientist and entrepreneur - New business development on carbohydrate research with Prof. Lubbert Dijkhuizen

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After more than 40 years of fundamental carbohydrate research at the University of Groningen (UG) and the Carbohydrate Competence Center (CCC), it is time for a change. In 2016, Prof Lubbert Dijkhuizen, Microbiology, started his own business: CarbExplore.Same area of expertise: enhancing carbohydrate innovation and value creation . Almost at the same location: Zernike Campus Groningen.

Prof. Lubbert DijkhuizenProf. Lubbert Dijkhuizen

Lubbert Dijkhuizen:  CarbExplore Research B.V. is a UG spin-off developing novel polysaccharides that are slowly digested in the body, have a reduced glycemic index, and prebiotic properties. CarbExplore Sweeteners B.V. is researching the re duction of Stevia aftertaste by enzymatic transglucosylation using glucansucrase (modified glucansucrase i) enzymes. Stevia is an intensely sweet-tasting plant used as a non-nutritive sweetener (containing little to no calories).

This slight bitter aftertaste and astringency of Stevia is one of the main obstacles for the successful commercialization of Stevia sweeteners. These undesirable properties can be reduced or eliminated by modifying the carbohydrate moieties of the steviol glycosides. The use of functional enzymes offers a new approach for food industry to reduce health risks and to prevent diseases such as diabetes and obesity. In an era of health prevention and health care cost reduction, CarbExplore’s Stevia research is trendsetting topic.

Moving experience

‘CarbExplore was founded together with Semme Moolenaar, Marcel van der Sluis and Evelien te Poele. Evelien is one of the more than 70 PhD’s that I guided to graduation in the last four decades. This adventure of exploring the exciting and sometimes inhospitable world of carbohydrate science and innovation together with young PhD students and postdocs has been a fascinating experience. The close co-operation with my students has made me the person that I am today. In 2019, my last PhD candidates are expected to graduate at the University of Groningen, embarking to his or her new research environment or R&D company setting.’

Successful public private research results

‘September 3rd, I will hand the CCC directorate baton to Prof. Gert-Jan Euverink (UG). Since 2007, the Carbohydrate Competence Center is the leading carbohydrate knowledge center in the Netherlands, developing and sharing high-caliber expertise in the field of carbohydrates. The University of Groningen is lead partner. In CCC research programmes, companies and knowledge institutes (e.g. WUR, UMCG) are working actively on carbohydrates as part of a healthy diet and carbohydrates as a source of new materials and chemicals. The results generated have considerable scientific and commercial impact.

For example, within CCC, world leading potato starch company AVEBE, Veendam, together with various knowledge institutes and agro-food industry are working closely together in the development of appealing, nutritional and healthy food products, using various enzymes. The new concepts are suitable to meet various consumer needs.

This successful public private cooperation in various CCC research programmes was one of the reasons that made AVEBE decide to locate its new R&D Innovation Center at Zernike Campus. This new Innovation Center houses research laboratories and a pilot factory, and facilities for research and education. The new AVEBE Innovation Center, due for completion this year, will be located j ust around the corner of the CarbExplore facilities at Zernike Campus.’


Fit & young

‘So, as of forthcoming September, I will focus on CarbExplore, and continue working together with industry and Groningen knowledge institutes on carbohydrate innovation and value creation, but from a entrepreneurial perspective. A new future of challenging public private research that may keep me fit and young.’



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