[Germany] Using bacteria and microalgae to produce valuable compounds from alternative, sustainable sources: biology professors Prof. Dr. Olaf Kruse and Prof. Dr. Volker F. Wendisch are investigating this topic with their research groups at the Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) and the Faculty of Biology at Bielefeld University. The researchers have now received funding approval for their work within three new cooperative research projects: the international research consortia will be funded with a total of 4.8 million Euro over a period of three years.
The biotechnologists are conducting their research within the framework of the European Research Area-Net Cofound on Biotechnologies (ERA Co-BioTech). Only 22 of the 119 proposals submitted were selected to receive funding – three of them now with Bielefeld University involvement. “This is a great success for biotechnology research at Bielefeld University, and it emphazises CeBiTecs prominent international standing in the field of industrial biotechnology with microorganisms, says the Scientific Director of the CeBiTec, Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse.
In the three new projects, CeBiTec teams will develop research strategies to replace the current dependence on oil in the world economy with a sustainable bio-economy in the long term. “The involvement of industry, such as the chemical company BASF, shows the high degree of practical relevance of this biotech research,” notes Professor Dr. Volker F. Wendisch. The Bielefeld University professors are working together with partners from Argentina, Denmark, Germany, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, and Slovenia in the three research networks.
Below is an overview of the research projects:
- MERIT: The MERIT project, coordinated by Olaf Kruse, is aimed at establishing microalgae as so-called “green cell factories” in industrial biotechnology. This involves developing novel targeted methods of biotechnological production for the sustainable synthesis of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products using sunlight and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Currently, many of these production processes typically depend on fossil fuel resources such as petroleum.
- INDIE: The research network INDIE, in which Volker F. Wendisch is a partner, investigates the fragrance and flavor agent Indol, the substance, for instance, that imparts jasmine tea with its typical floral aroma. Using corynebacteria, strategies for the sustainable production of Indol are being developed in order to replace the existing manufacturing process, which is based on coal tar.
- C1Pro: The cooperative research project C1Pro, on which Wendisch is also a partner, pursues an approach from synthetic and systems biology to make methanol a usable, sustainable raw material for the production of valuable compounds. To do this, the thermophilic bacterium Bacillus methanolicus is used.
Starting in 2018, the research projects will be funded for three years. Bielefeld Universitys CeBiTec researchers will receive 1 million of the 4.8 million Euro in funding.
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