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

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UK MasterChef winner Tim Anderson experiments with 3D printed pasta

9 August 2022

The winner of MasterChef UK series 7, Tim Anderson, experiments with 3D printed pasta from BluRhapsody, a collaboration between Italian pasta makers Barilla and TNO. The results were satisfactory. Kjeld van Bommel, senior consultant 3D Food and Pharma Printing at TNO, explains how the triple collaboration took shape.

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Food pharma printing


In new Additive Manufacturing laboratories, we’re engaged in development and experiments to improve 3D printing of food and pharmaceuticals.

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TNO contributes to improving the health of young people and their parents. Through scientific research, guideline development, and education, among other things.