Colja Laane is a well-known name in the industrial and academic world. He graduated in biochemistry at the University of Groningen and did a PhD (cum laude) at Wageningen University and Research on the bioenergetics of nitrogen fixation. He proceeded to work on artificial photosynthesis in the laboratory of Nobel laureate prof. Melvin Calvin in Berkeley, USA. After his return to the Netherlands, he pursued a career at Unilever, DSM, WUR and the Netherlands Genomics Initiative. He was also interim director of the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health in the Netherlands, interim scientific director of the Eyehospital in Rotterdam and Business Partnership Manager at Medical Delta. In between he was a fulltime professor at the WUR. More often than not, he was involved in public-private ventures, which is one of the reasons he was approached to fulfil the role of chair of Supervisory Board of the CCC.
“After Sibrand Poppema had announced he would be taking his leave as chair, Lubbert Dijkhuizen and Gertjan Euverink both asked me whether I would be interested in becoming Poppema’s successor. Since I was already involved in the evaluation committee of CarboKinetics I already knew the CCC well. So, I decided to say yes. I see my role as someone who can build bridges between the private and public sectors: I have a lot of experience on both sides and I have an extensive network of useful contacts.
I will not be involved in the scientific content of the programs, since I have a supervisory role. The day to day business of doing research is the responsibility of the two scientific managers Henk Schols and Gertjan Euverink. But I do have affinity with a number of research projects, especially in the field of industrial production of chemicals and ingredients with enzymes and microorganisms.”
Value of carbohydrate research
“I am very positive about the private-public programs of the CCC. The fifty-fifty financial distribution means all parties are really committed: the industry as well as the knowledge centers. What I have seen so far proves to me the value all partners attach to fundamental research that is so important for practical applications. We must all realize that life cannot exist without carbohydrates. In nature they mainly supply energy and structure. Our very DNA depends largely on carbohydrates. Unlocking the black box containing the secret role of carbohydrates for our health is a wonderful challenge. I also have great expectations about the research into how we can use carbohydrates as raw materials in industrial applications and as substitute of fossil oil. I am very interested in what the new CarboBased program will bring us.”
Improving financial backing
“Financially, the CCC works besides a range of private parties with steady public financial backers like NWO. I expect it will be possible to interest more parties in backing our programs, like the ministry of Agriculture and the Top Sector Chemistry. As director of the Genomics initiative I used to work with representatives of at least six ministries. So, I expect I can certainly mean something for the CCC by expanding our network of useful contacts both in the public and private domain. I am looking forward to do my part.”