Johannes le Coutre joined the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 2019 as Professor – Food & Health. With the goal to strengthen food security and to alleviate the agricultural burden on the environment he is developing a broad research agenda on cellular agriculture. Current food systems around the globe will not be able to provide sustainable food security, and rigorous scientific investigation is required to deliver innovation for agriculture and food industry. He is teaching within the UNSW food program.
Le Coutre holds a Ph.D. in Biophysics for studying the reaction mechanism of the light-driven proton pump bacteriorhodopsin using time resolved Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy at the Max-Planck-Institute for Nutritional Physiology. He discovered the critical role for protein-based proton conduction of highly ordered and dynamic hydrogen-bonded networks. This came after a Diploma (MSc) in Biology for a thesis on bacterial photosynthesis from the University of Regensburg, Germany.
Fascinated by fundamental biological questions of “outside vs. inside” and the underlying biophysics describing substrate fluxes and energy transfer, Johannes went to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at UCLA in Los Angeles, USA. In the laboratory of H. Ronald Kaback he studied sugar transport in Escherichia coli and the Lactose Permease using a variety of biochemical and biophysical approaches. Arguably this bacterial system can be seen as the simplest form of cellular nutrition.
With the human genome becoming available in 2000, le Coutre was recruited for a position at the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, to operationalize the emerging insights on molecular taste physiology for research on food and flavours. As the head of Perception Physiology, he has been driving various large corporate research projects. Le Coutre’s lab has been among the initial research groups who identified taste receptors to be expressed in the gastrointestinal tract.
His research led to important technology developments that were commercialized in key markets and product categories. He is the co-inventor of numerous patents and author of peer reviewed scientific publications.
From 2009 to 2017 le Coutre held a visiting Professorship at the University of Tokyo, where he has been involved with teaching and with a project on taste perception in the Elderly (Mikaku). Also in 2009, le Coutre initiated a well perceived course on innovation at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
In 2016 le Coutre has been promoted to Head of the Greater London Research Program. He established and led a portfolio of scientific collaborations between Nestlé and lmperial College London, where he holds a visiting Professorship. This program features clinical work on microbiota, on spices and on food-related human perception.
Prior to joining UNSW, in addition to his research activities, he served as the Secretary General for Nestlé’s Scientific Advisory board and as coordinator of the International Nutrition Symposium, an annual event featuring world-leading scientists debating critical topics in food and nutrition.
Professor le Coutre is the founding Field Chief Editor for FRONTIERS in Nutrition, an open access journal by the Frontiers Media company.
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