Microbiology and systems biology

Healthy society

Our Microbiology & Systems Biology (MSB) expertise group devises solutions to challenges in food, health, and biotechnology. With our expertise, we create customised innovations. Our clients are companies in the agro & food, personal care, chemical, biotechnological, and pharmaceutical sectors.

What we do

With systems biology, we gain an understanding of connections in complex biological processes. One of our strengths is developing indicators of biological and pathogenic processes, such as inflammation and food spoilage. We use state-of-the-art analytical platforms that we apply to a broad collection of in vitro and in vivo models of disease and health, in order to tackle complex issues in industry.

Systems biology

For example, we look at whether foods have healthy effects on the intestinal and oral microbiota. And whether they promote health in mouse models of cardiovascular disease, farm animals, and humans. We also use systems biology to find natural foodstuffs that inhibit food spoilage. In addition, we optimise industrial bioprocesses and develop methods to convert biomass into basic molecules. Examples are building blocks and biofuels.

Our expertise

We develop our expertise in the following TNO innovation areas:

Food innovations

  • Health: reducing salt, fatty acids, and sugars. Measuring effects of food on health to underpin health claims
  • Safety: rapid detection of food spoilage and poisoning, improving shelf life, and alternatives to antibiotics
  • Sustainability: clear labelling for foodstuffs, replacement of additives by natural ingredients
  • Biomedical innovations
  • Diagnosis: biomarkers for health and disease
  • Treatment and prevention: customised treatment, maintaining health
  • Predicting and modelling health and disease
  • Drug development: holistic preclinical and clinical toxicology, efficacy studies of drugs, and shortening animal studies.

Industrial innovations

  • Bioprocess intensification: more efficient and faster production of biomolecules by micro-organisms
  • Biobased economy: converting biomass into commonly used basic molecules.

In practice

We’re among the best in applied systems biology, microbiology, and biotechnology. We’re a partner in various national and international networks, and public-private partnerships. In many markets, we work for the top 10 largest companies. We’re known for our professionalism and excellent project management.


A selection of completed projects:

  • Testing food products to maintain people’s health
  • Optimising yoghurt and cheese starter cultures
  • Detecting Legionella in drinking water and Campylobacter in food
  • Natural alternatives to antibiotics in the veterinary sector
  • Testing food for effects on the intestinal flora of cats
  • More efficient bioproduction of enzymes and metabolites
  • Unravelling inflammation processes during vaccination.

Want to know more?

You can download an overview of our solutions and publications.

Get inspired

68 resultaten, getoond 1 t/m 5

Discover hybrid working 2.0: virtual meetings in the metaverse

26 January 2023

Positive experiences of remote working are leading us to insights for new innovations. Our latest innovation: work meetings in the metaverse.

Group Care for pregnant women: A game changer for maternal and child care

20 December 2022

Approximately 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Group care breaks the vicious circle of poor quality and inadequate utilization of services by offering care that addresses health holistically. It also focuses on health promotion and information and meets the needs of the end users. TNO and partners co-create strategies, learn implementation lessons and build ecosystems for learning and adaptation to bring group care to scale in seven countries.

Peter Werkhoven steps down as member of the Executive Board

19 December 2022

Prof. Peter Werkhoven will step down as member of the Executive Board on 1 January 2023. He is making this move of his own volition and for personal reasons. Peter will stay on as Scientific Advisor to the Board for a few days per week. In addition, Peter has worked and will continue to work as a professor at Utrecht University one day a week.

TNO innovations addressing mental health of children

9 December 2022

BoB, TNO’s methodology for teaching children resilience and stress management in South Sudan has proven successful and effective, and is ready for upscaling.

TNO helps accelerate drug development through insight

14 November 2022

To find the most effective interventions for complex metabolic diseases, we must first understand the dynamics of disease onset and progression. Only then can key targets and optimal therapeutic windows for more effective treatment be defined. We spoke with Anita van den Hoek, Research Scientist for TNO Metabolic Health, about how TNO helps pharmaceutical companies accelerate drug development through better understanding of disease pathways.