In the years before 1999, BIOMATH encompassed the entire department of Applied Mathematics, Biometrics and Process Control. In that time, a great deal of research topics relating mathematics to biological sciences were studied at the department level.
It was only in 1999 that the department re-organized into different research units. At this point BIOMATH became the acronym of the research unit under the wings of Prof. Peter Vanrolleghem. The main focus of the group was “Model-based bioprocess analysis and optimisation” by means of mechanistic models. Back then, the research group itself was divided in several research areas: environmental biotechnology, fermentation technology, food and feed technology and agriculture. Over the next years the group steadily grew to a size of more than 30 researchers, primarily due to some successful EU-funded projects.
In 2006, Prof. Vanrolleghem decided to leave Ghent University for a new research chair in the city he learned to appreciate during a sabbatical: Québec City, Canada. This resulted in a leadership void which lasted for more then 2.5 years. During this period professors and postdoctoral researchers took care of the research, administrative, teaching and services of the organisation.
In October 2008, Prof. Ingmar Nopens was appointed as associate professor. The vision of Prof. Nopens shifted the focus of the group towards a triangle of modelling frameworks, and therefore extending the conventional bio-kinetic models with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Population Balance Models (PBM).
- CFD extends the level of spatial description of reactor systems and was felt as a need since systemic models, such as tanks-in-series approach, became limiting.
- PBM was a logical addition since this was the topic of Prof. Nopens’ PhD dissertation. This framework allows to model the dynamics of distributed properties of a population of individuals.
Also, combinations of the frameworks can be used to answer complex problems. In that sense, one of the current strategies of BIOMATH is the development and experimental validation of complex models for process understanding. Such a detailed modeling step can be followed by a model reduction step to create simplified models. In the sense that they are mathematically and computationally easier to solve, more accurate, require less calibration and, therefore, have a higher predictive power as compared to lumped process models.
Led by Prof. Ingmar Nopens, the application domains also shifted towards those systems which were identified to be in great need of additional process knowledge. Hence, we are currently working in the fields of Wastewater treatment and resource recovery, Pharmaceutical manufacturing, Ecology and Bioprocess technology. The first is further consolidated in efforts like Capture and R2T, whereas the last is a successful collaboration initiated in 2010 with the Lab of Process Analytical Technology led by Prof. Thomas De Beer.
Based on our history we are proud to say that several technology readiness levels are available in the research portfolio of BIOMATH. This was confirmed by founding our own spin-off company AM-TEAM in January 2017. This takes our consultancy services to the next level by using BIOMATH's extensive knowledge base.