Category Archives: General updates

Year in review – 2022

This is Lauren writing our second annual progress report for the blog! Some ups and downs this year, but lots of progress as well. Heli and I attended the 14th Carbohydrate Bioengineering Meeting in Norway, and I presented our work both there and at a Treesearch Progress workshop in Sweden. Ioanna gave several presentations of her work, touring the lignin conference circuit as she prepares to settle in for the last year of her PhD. In some ways, getting people together was a main theme for the year, as we also managed to have our first proper lab Christmas party and Division Day since before the pandemic – lots of fun memories and photos!

A montage of photos taken at the KTH Glycoscience Division Day 2022. Also showing Ioanna and Lauren giving conference presentations.


A big goal for this year was to publish data from the projects we have been working on for a while. So we worked hard to finalise the last few experiments for several projects, then to write up those papers, getting feedback from collaborators/co-authors, etc. There were several projects ready to be wrapped up simultaneously and the team has done a great job pushing multiple lines of research to completion! I am especially grateful to postdoc extraordinaire Heli for this, and to Alma, our former research engineer. As always though, these things took longer to finalise than hoped, so our papers aren’t out yet. But as I write this on December 30th, we have one paper accepted, two in review, and two ready to submit in the new year. I plan for a blog post discussing each paper as they are published.


In the spring, two exchange students (Kasane from Tokyo Institute of Technology and Beatriz from Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon) submitted theses based on work they did with us in 2021-22. And in January we were joined by three KTH students on the Biotechnology Master’s programme who performed their final thesis projects with us: Emelie, Lova, and Vicky all defended successfully in early June! Emelie had been working with Ioanna on a green extraction procedure for lignin, contributing to our fundamental understanding of that important biopolymer. Meanwhile, Vicky and Lova were working with Heli on an enzyme discovery project, trying to figure out the impact of carbohydrate-binding modules on some enzymes from environmental bacteria. They stayed on as paid research interns through the summer, and generated a lot of excellent data in the process.

Theresa Schaufler from BOKU, Vienna, joined us in October with support from the Erasmus programme, to perform her Master’s thesis project in our group. She is performing the first life cycle analysis of our hydrogel biomaterial and will help us to optimise the sustainable process! I also supervised a group of five students for a project course on Biopolymers, and they helped us to understand the interactions happening in our protein-carbohydrate hydrogel system. Now we know a lot more about the properties the polysaccharide needs to have in order to work correctly in our cross-linking system.

A PhD student I was co-supervising, Salla Koskela, successfully defended her thesis in June, and it was wonderful that her supervisor Prof Qi Zhou, the examiner, and the whole defence committee were there in person. Salla’s work had focussed on enzymes called lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases and how they can be used to make nanocellulose, and you can read it at this link. Congratulations Salla! And thank you again for your important contributions to our polysaccharide hydrogel project.

This year I also really enjoyed taking part in several PhD defences, as I sat on two committees in Sweden, and was the examiner for Dr Hannah Gibson at Newcastle University, UK. Topics ranged from bacterial polysaccharide characterisation to the intricacies of CAZyme mechanisms, and all of the students were very impressive.

Photo taken by Dr Shennan Wang after the successful PhD defence of Dr Salla Koskela, third from left.


Our brilliant research engineer Alma Kvammen left us in July to work for an exciting company in Tromsø, Norway. Lova and Vicky were hired as laboratory assistants for three months over the summer, after finishing their respective thesis projects in the spring. I am happy to say that we are in the process of recruiting a PhD student thanks to financial support from the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre (WWSC). The application deadline for this position was a couple of weeks ago, and I plan to conduct the first interviews in January. In addition, I will be recruiting a post-doc for our hydrogel project in spring or summer 2023, so stay tuned.


This was a big year for proposal writing and we have had some notable successes, as well as a few disappointments. In early July, Heli was awarded 500 kSEK from the ÅForsk foundation for a new project on transglycosylating enzymes! We are using these funds to invest in some equipment that will speed up our enzyme discovery work. Around the same time, Ioanna was awarded two foundation grants to support her plant cell transcriptomics experiments. The awards totalled almost 200 kSEK, letting us cover the full costs of the project and related publications! As mentioned above, I was awarded financial support for a PhD project by the WWSC, and I’m excited to start this new line of investigation in 2023. New funds from the Carl Trygger foundation will be used to recruit a post-doc for the hydrogel project later in the year! As always, you can read details about all of our financing at this link.


This was again a major focus area for me this year, and I have learned so much about the challenging journey of translating academic research into a commercial venture.

Working with my colleague Amparo, I completed the KTH Innovation Pre-Incubator Programme with our concept MycOligo. In a 12-month programme of seminars and workshops, we learned how to found a spin-off start-up company. We were awarded funds from KTH Innovation to conduct a market research survey of customer interest in our idea, and I’m looking forwards to seeing how far we can push MycOligo in the months and years to come. The photo montage below shows some highlights from our innovation journey, including Demo Day and presenting our idea to King Carl XVI Gustaf and Prince Daniel of Sweden!

My own early-stage start-up company Glycolink, of which I am the CEO, made some great progress this year. The biomaterial we are developing was recognised by the IVA as an important sustainable innovation, and in the autumn we received funding from the Vinnova research council in their Innovative Impact Startups programme! This is an important step for our young company, and will help us with product validation, up-scaling, safety testing, and sustainability assessment. I made my first commercial pitch of Glycolink to an investor group in December, and hope I can share some details in the new year! Lots to look forward to here 🙂

A montage of photos of Lauren and Amparo taken at KTH Innovation during two special events: a visit from th King of Sweden, and Demo Day for the pre-incubator programme.

Looking ahead

All in all, this year was a heavy one, with lots of pressure, but with successes to celebrate as well. A lot of special events bringing people together, several new projects to get excited about, and a completion to some long-term initiatives. We have much to be proud of this year and I hope we can keep up the momentum for 2023. I look forward to welcoming four new Master’s thesis students in the spring and can’t wait to see what you can do, Rasmus, Felise, Ida, and Piltan!

A special event in the coming year will be the PhD defence of Ioanna Sapouna – stay tuned for details! Now that she has several good publications on the way, she will be working on her thesis throughout the spring.

I want to say an extra special thank you to Alma Kvammen, our talented former research engineer who is now working in Norway, but whose incredible work ethic and scientific rigour pushed multiple projects to completion and kick-started several others. We miss you but wish you the very best of luck!

Year in review – 2021

Hi! This is Lauren, writing our group’s first (hopefully) annual review blog! Despite *everything* I feel quite positive looking back at 2021. There have certainly been some hurdles, delays, and setbacks, due to the *everything* going on in the world. And we have all faced problems now and then, or been distracted by concerns back home. But I feel strongly that this was the year that a research group really coalesced – I love being part of this team, I am immensely proud of what we have achieved this year, and I can’t wait to capitalise on all the work we’ve done and share it with the world in 2022. I started this website in the summer when I began to feel a group identity coming to life. I want this site to be a place that brings visibility to everyone in the group, and I have been pleased that several members have taken the chance to write updates and reflective pieces for this blog! The blog is also something you can browse through to catch up on what we and our students have been doing, if you’re interested in that kind of thing. Don’t forget that if you ever have questions about us or our work, you can get in touch with me via this website, or you can find my contact details at my KTH profile page.


We made solid progress in all of our major lines of experimentation this year. Mengshu’s hydrogel research is especially well advanced: we now understand how the material forms, and are beginning to assess its basic properties so we can hopefully design some applications for it. Already, Heli has established new methods for protein analysis in our lab, and her work on thermostable enzymes has some interesting results that we will build on in the spring. And Ioanna’s lignin-focussed projects have continued to become more and more interdisciplinary, as she steps outside of her chemistry comfort zone and starts to learn more about plant biology and molecular biology techniques. We are now working on manuscripts relating to all of these projects, while research continues into the new year.


Supervising Master’s students for their final thesis projects is a major part of working in this lab, and 2021 was no exception. In fact, because the pandemic meant a shortage of available jobs, there were more students looking for thesis projects in the university than I ever remember! As a group, we took on four KTH students who worked January-June, and another who worked from March-September. We also had two guest students from other Swedish universities who completed 12-month thesis projects in 2021: Zijia and Amrutha both worked on some aspect of biocontrol, investigating different bacterial species to see if they might be valuable tools to suppress plant diseases.

Busy times! The KTH students worked on diverse aspects of biomaterials, bioremediation, biocontrol, and biorefinery, and I admit I found it tough to keep up with everyone’s work, so I was happy to have effective co-supervisors for all students. We also had two student interns work with Mengshu and Heli for about seven weeks. Most of our student projects were very fruitful, although some were frustrating – Amrutha learned some lessons about coping with “negative data” while still producing a fantastic thesis on plant protection.

This year I was most happy to welcome two students whose time in our lab had been long-planned and delayed by Covid restrictions! Kasane from Tokyo Institute of Technology and Beatriz from Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon finally joined us to perform thesis projects as exchange students at KTH. Beatriz is working with Mengshu on a hydrogels project, and Kasane is working with Heli and Amparo Jimenez Quero on a biorefinery project. I’m so happy to have them both here! They will be with us until early 2022.


Our group has expanded quite a lot in 2021. We had several master’s thesis students in the spring-summer, but we were also joined by three longer-term members through the year. Ioanna joined our group in April, and I will be her main supervisor for the rest of her PhD. Heli also joined us in April, for a postdoc expected to last at least two years. And in October, Alma started her position as a research engineer with our team, and I hope she will stay for at least a year, as she is already making very valuable contributions to all of our projects. Right now, we have no plans for new recruitments any time soon, although the funding landscape can change, and I am happy to discuss with anyone who can bring their own funding.


Heli wrote and submitted her first major grant application this year, a daunting but important step for any early career researcher. Fingers crossed for good news in 2022! Ioanna and Mengshu also each wrote a small proposal for an internal funding call at KTH, which was a first experience for them. I was happy in late 2021 to be awarded funds from the Carl Trygger Foundation to support the purchase of some much needed equipment for analysing hydrogels. And I was very pleased that my good friend Johan Larsbrink at Chalmers University, Gothenburg received project funding from Novo Nordisk Fonden – Ioanna and I will contribute to that exciting project in a small way, and I am always happy to have a chance to work with Johan.


I learned a lot this year about “innovation” and the commercialisation of research: specifically, about how academic research can be translated into real industrial output, either through partnerships or via the founding of new companies. At the beginning of the year, I was one of the first cohort of KTH researchers to take part in a mentorship programme, where I was matched with a mentor who had founded his own company after doing a postdoc in Sweden, and has since gone on to start several successful biotech firms. He gave me a great practical education in how to determine whether a ‘research project’ can become a ‘business idea’, and I learned a lot from this scheme about how to talk about innovation, and about all of the non-scientific skills I would be able to transfer from my life in academia into the start-up ecosystem.

Then, later in the year, together with my friend and colleague Amparo, I joined a pre-incubator programme at KTH, where we are exploring the commercial potential of one of our joint research lines. Our ‘batch’ of start-up concepts meets on Thursday lunchtime every week, and we discuss everything from financing, business management, and branding, to project planning, building a strong team, and giving effective feedback. It has been extremely cool to hang out with a large group of innovators from fields ranging from AI and games/app development to biotech and space exploration, and it is especially rewarding to hear that these diverse teams are facing such similar challenges to our own. It has been a crash course in “business speak“, for sure, but by now we’re comfortable in the group, and are able to think and communicate coherently about our hopes and plans for the next few years. Amparo also recently joined the mentor programme to get an additional perspective on what we are doing, and you can read about both of our experiences in this interview.

In related news, Mengshu and I also have an exciting initiative in the works, but that announcement will come later…!

Looking ahead

As a group, we have mostly been initiating major new projects this year, and so we didn’t publish a lot of papers in 2021, although some Covid-delayed collaborations with other groups did see papers coming out, which was very nice. I also published an invited review in Environmental Microbiology Reports, co-written with colleagues in Gothenburg and Norway. All of our research projects are in full swing now so a big priority for early 2022 is to start publishing our work! We have two near-complete manuscripts that I want to submit in January, and advanced plans for at least two more we’ll be working on in the spring, so I hope you’ll get to read those in the not-too distant future. Working on these papers feels like an important step for the group, as they will represent our first joint accomplishments. As Ioanna has just passed her half-time evaluation, we also need to focus on guiding her towards PhD completion, wrapping up the projects that she has been advancing this year, and starting to work on the publications needed for a defence at KTH.

January-March is always a very busy time. I will have a heavy teaching load and at least three significant research grants to write, so I am happy to know that our experimental work is in the best of hands. Both Heli and Ioanna will be joined in their projects by Master’s thesis students, and I will supervise a group of students through a smaller project for a biopolymers-related course. I’m looking forward to meeting them, and giving them their first hands-on lab experience since pre-pandemic! I also hope that the world will open up enough that we can travel safely, so that we can attend at least one conference as a group. Maybe see you there 🙂

Welcome to our website!

Hello! We are the Stockholm CAZyme group, based at the Division of Glycoscience at KTH Royal Institute of Technology! We will be using this website to collate information about our group members and to share announcements about new events, publications, and updates on our work. If you want to learn about opportunities to join the group or collaborate with us, please see the Get In Touch page.

We are all passionate about complex carbohydrates like those found in plant and fungal cell walls: what do they look like, what are their properties, how are they made, and how can we use them? Feel free to browse around this site to learn more!

This site will be mostly maintained by me, Lauren – my biggest job is to make sure that everyone else on the team has what they need to do their work in an effective way. But other members of the team will be writing news updates as we progress, so stay tuned! If you wish, you can subscribe to this blog or sign up to get email alerts when we post something new.