Water is key because we cannot live without it. We needed to nurture and water our crops and to manufacture all kinds of different things. In today’s episode, we explore the future of water as it relates to agriculture and life on Earth. My guest is Peter Holme Jensen, who is the Chief Innovation Officer of Aquaporin. They have developed an innovative technology to treat and filter water on an industrial scale. The design is based on how our bodies naturally filter water through something called an aquaporin protein. In this episode, we dive into Aquaporin’s approach to innovation and how they have built a business based on biomimicry or the science of applying nature’s genius to solve human problems. We also get into the science behind Aquaporin’s technology, why watter matters, and the company’s startup story since it was founded in 2005.
📙 Book: The Age of Living Machines
📝 Aquaporin’s publication in Science that started it all
🍺 Carlsberg on sustainability and water in food production
🔬 Chr Hansen on the world of enzymes
🧫 Chromologics on fermenting natural colors
📈 Spinning out research into a business
👩🔬 DTU on desiging university innovation environments
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Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech Podcast Host 0:31
Hello Peter. Welcome to the Nordic FoodTech Podcast. I’m excited to start today’s show with a little bit of a science mystery because you work with aquaporins, which are nature’s own water purifiers. But for a long time, there was a big mystery around aquaporins and how water moves in and out of cells. So, can you talk a little bit about how the aquaporin was discovered and what this mystery was in the science world?
Peter Holme Jensen, Aquaporin 2:33
Thank you, Analisa. For a couple of decades, it was sort of a mystery how water could actually go so fast in and out of living cells as it actually does. So, there was a hypothesis that we had this water channel that could very efficiently and selectively transport water in and out of living cells. A in the late 80s, there was an American professor, Peter Agre, who a little bit by accident actually discovered the aquaporin protein. He was looking for another protein and then he had this protein that kept on showing in his chemical analysis. And he said, “Well, maybe that actually might be the long sought after water channel.” And he used the next three years to examine that. He figured it out and also got proof that it actually was the water channel in living cells. Then I think in 1992 or 1993, he named this water channel the aquaporin protein. So, not only did he discover it, but he also named it. Prior to that, the aquaporin protein was called the major intrinsic protein because nobody knew what it was doing. So, if you look into the literature, there were a lot of things published about the major intrinsic protein, which is actually the aquaporin protein, but nobody knew what it was.
Analisa Winther, Nordic FoodTech Podcast Host 4:02
Yeah. But what is an aquaporin protein in terms of what proteins actually do for us?