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Illumination of Microbial Dark Matter

Illumination of Microbial Dark Matter

Microbes play a vital role in most processes in the biosphere and are essential for solving present and future environmental challenges. Millions of bacterial species exist on the planet, but only few of these are isolated and described today. The vast majority is undescribed and their functions are unknown, the Microbial Dark Matter. They represent a huge untapped resource in environmental biotechnology.

A Villum investigator grant of 30 million DKK (4.5 Million €) to Prof. Per Halkjær Nielsen from the Villum foundation will provide resources to study the microbial dark matter. Focus areas will be related to ecosystems of biotechnological relevance and various natural environments.


The project is funded by The Villum Foundation in the period 2017-2023. Link to funding (in Danish) 

Project content:

  • Develop the next generation of high throughput technologies for large-scale integrated investigations of microbial identity and function.
  • Reach the next level of insights into microbial ecosystems, including key microbes from all domains of life, their function, interactions, ecology, and thereby illuminate the underlying principles controlling their presence in specific ecosystems.

Project participants:

Aalborg University, Center for Microbial Communities:

  • Per Halkjær Nielsen, Professor (project leader)
  • Marta Nierychlo, Staff. Scientist
  • Morten Dueholm, Assistant Professor
  • Several PhDs, Postdocs, MSc students and visitors (to come)


  • Mads Albertsen, Assistant Professor (Center for Microbial Communities, AAU)
  • Michael Wagner, Professor, University of Vienna