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Juan A. Asenjo, Ph.D.

1995 - Present: Professor and Director of the Centre for Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology, Dept. of Chemical and Biotechnology Engineering, University of Chile.

2007 (Jan) – Present: Director of the Milenium Institute for Cell Dynamics and Biotechnology (ICDB): a Center for “Systems Biology”, University of Chile.

2004 - National Science Prize

2010 – Present: President  Chilean Academy of Sciences

2004 – 2009  Vice President of the Chilean Academy of Sciences
2003 – 2009  Foreign Officer of the Chilean Academy of Sciences

1999 - Elected Numbered Member of the Chilean Academy of Sciences.

1997 - Presidential Chair in Science.
1999 - 2005: Senior Scientist and Deputy Director of the Millennium Institute for Advanced Studies in Cell Biology and Biotechnology (CBB), University of Chile.

1987 - 1994 Reader of Biochemical Engineering and Director of the Biochemical Engineering Laboratory University of Reading, Reading, England.

1980 - 1986 Assistant Professor (1980-84) and Associate Professor (1985-86) in charge of the Biochemical Engineering Laboratory Columbia University, New York, USA.

Directed 44 PhD. Theses in USA, England and now in Chile.

175 publications in international journals and book chapters (in English)

145  in principal journals (ISI) with peer review and 30 book chapters.

Chemical Engineer, University of Chile, 1974 "Thesis" published in the international journal "Chemical Engineering Science", Pergamon Press, recognized as the best international journal in the area: "On the transition from a fixed to a spouted bed", Chem. Eng. Sci. (1977) 32, 109-118.

M.Sc. Degree, University of Leeds, U.K. 1975

Ph.D. Degree, University College London, 1978 (with Profs. P. Dunnill and M.D. Lilly, FRS)
Associate Professor, University of Chile, 1979-1980 (Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology and School of Engineering, Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences). Established the Chemical Engineering Masters Degree Program.

Member of the Editorial Committee of seven International Journals: Biotechnology  and Bioengineering, Biotechnology Advances, Enzyme and Microbial Technology, Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering, Biotechnology Letters, Bioseparation, Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology.
Chairman of several international Congresses (France , England)and of the 12th International Biotechnology Symposium and Exhibition (2004), International Lectures in Germany, Holland, Israel, Spain, Portugal, England and Brasil among others.

Former Students as Professors and Researchers in Universities and Research Centres all over the world: Cornell University, Iowa State University and Rice University, USA, University College London University of Bath, U.K., Universidad de Campinas, Brasil, Guanxi University, China, Universidad Catolica de Porto, Foster Wheeler Int., Smith Kline Beecham, Amgen, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Procter and Gamble, Wyeth, Ireland, Riso Laboratories and Novo Nordisk, Denmark, Universidad de La Frontera, Universidad de Antofagasta, Universidad de Chile.

Dr. Asenjo has made important cientific contributions in three main areas:
First in pioneering the development, use and mathematical modeling of enzyme systems for the lysis and permeabilization of microbial cells. His work has elucidated the mechanism of regulation of the synthesis of the enzyme components of lytic systems in two bacteria: Cytophaga and Oerskovia. A pure lytic glucanase has been isolated which is capable of permeabilizing the wall of yeast and hence selectively releasing intra-cellular recombinant proteins (VLPs which are presently being used for an AIDS vaccine) from the yeast cells. His group has been successful in cloning several of the lytic glucanases. In this area he has also made an important contribution in developing mathematical models of the kinetics of biological systems including population balance analysis that have a critical importance due to the non-homogeneity of biological systems.

Secondly in developing and modeling the behaviour and separation of proteins in Aqueous Two-Phase Systems. This area has already been recognized as having great potential and is starting to attract interest as a novel separation technique for proteins and other molecules. Asenjo has developed a mathematical model for predicting the partition behaviour of proteins based on group contributions and is presently developing a model of phase behaviour used for simulation and optimization. He has purified a number of important proteins such as alpha-amylase, tPA, monoclonal antibodies and recently, recombinant VLPs produced in yeast cells.

Thirdly, he has attracted the interest of the international biotechnology community in the development of an Expert System for the optimal selection of multistep protein separation and purification sequences. Asenjo has generated essential and previously non-existing expert knowledge, which includes databases of main physico-chemical properties of proteins in recombinant systems. His group has also generated detailed electrophoretic and chromatographic characterization of all proteins present. This expertise will constitute an invaluable help for the rapid and simple isolation of engineered proteins in the future. As this constitutes a novel approach it has opened totally new ground and developed critical concepts and knowledge in the field. He has been invited to deliver many main lectures at international conferences on this topic.

New Areas
New lines of research that Asenjo’s group has begun to develop, based on the great multidisciplinary expertise just mentioned, are the areas of protein engineering including computer modelling and metabolic engineering, the culture of cells for cell therapy and the development of mathematical models to describe gene regulation of metabolic networks.

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Professor Juan A. Asenjo can be reached at (56 2) 978 4723 or by E-mail: juasenjo@ing.uchile.cl