Merja Penttilä (b. 1956) has been Research Professor for Biotechnology at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland since 1999. Since the beginning of 2016 she has also served as a part-time Professor of Synthetic Biology at Aalto University.
Penttilä’s major research interest is the development of new production processes that replace fossil raw materials. Her specific focus is on so-called cell factories, microorganisms that are engineered to produce biobased products for energy, health, materials and other applications.
She has worked extensively with a number of national and international companies to develop industry-changing applications. Throughout her career she has worked to foster dialogue and cooperation between academic research and industry. She is the founder of the Synbio Powerhouse ecosystem, which offers a collaborative platform for research organisations, businesses and investors in the synthetic biology field.
Penttilä took her doctorate at the University of Helsinki in 1987. During her career at VTT in 2000–2017, she has been Centre of Excellence director, vice director and team leader in Academy of Finland CoE programmes. She has led EU research projects as well as major projects funded by foundations, and has served as a committee expert for multiple national and international institutes. Penttilä has published around 300 original scientific articles and holds some 50 patents.
She received the Charles D. Scott Award in 2019 (Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, USA) and the Wihuri International Prize in 2012.
Penttilä received the title of Academician of Science in 2023.