Latest News | Institute of Organic Chemistry

July 2023

How algae and marine bacteria contribute to CO2 storage in the oceans

Fabian Pfrengle from the Institute of Organic Chemistry at BOKU received an ERC Consolidator Grant for his project "Automated Synthesis of Algal Polysaccharides" on basic research on the marine carbon cycle.

Along with forests, oceans are among the largest CO2 reservoirs on earth. Like trees, marine algae also convert gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into carbohydrates every year by means of photosynthesis. In the form of algal polysaccharides, among other things, these structurally complex biomolecules determine to a large extent how much CO2 is actually stored in the oceans.

Specialised marine bacteria can break down the algal polysaccharides through the action of carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) and release the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. However, some of the polysaccharides (between 5 and 10 per cent) are not recycled quickly, but sink into the deep sea and sediments, where they can store CO2 for millennia.

To better understand these processes, great efforts are needed to further research the marine carbon cycle. The entire machinery of enzymes responsible for the degradation of polysaccharides by marine bacteria is still largely unexplored due to the size and heterogeneity of algal polysaccharides. This is now to change: Prof. Fabian Pfrengle, head of the Institute of Organic Chemistry at BOKU has received an ERC Consolidator Grant of two million euros from the EU for his project "Automated Synthesis of Algal Polysaccharides (ASAP)".

"In the ERC project, we want to chemically reconstruct the algal polysaccharides in order to obtain more precise information about which structures can be recognised by which marine bacteria and how and in what way they can be degraded," Pfrengle explains the objectives of ASAP.

Because "pure Pure and defined oligosaccharides (a compound of 3 to 10 monosaccharides), which are needed for a systematic screening of marine CAZymes, are currently not widely available." Since conventional chemical synthesis is time-consuming and often not general enough, ASAP aims to obtain collections of oligosaccharides, so-called "sugar libraries", representing different classes of algal polysaccharides by using automated glycan synthesis ssembly (AGA) technology. Automated glycan synthesis assembly rapidly and reliably produces biologically relevant carbohydrates that are used in particular for biological and medical research.

Over the next five years, Fabian Pfrengle and his team will now conduct basic research to gain insight into the collective enzyme activities of a bacterial community in seawater and sediment samples:

- the collective enzyme activities of a bacterial community in seawater and sediment samples.

- the abilities of individual bacterial strains to degrade certain polysaccharides.

- the substrate specificity of purified CAZymes.

"With the knowledge we hope to generate during the course of the project, algae could be more specifically selected and bred for efficient CO2 storage or for applications in biotechnology in the future," says Pfrengle.

Scientific contact:

Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Chem. Dr. Fabian Pfrengle
Institute for Organic Chemistry
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
E-mail: fabian.pfrengle(at)
Tel.: 01 47654 - 77301



July 2023

A new PhD-student in a collaboration project with Christina Schäffer

Michael Bruckner has started his PhD-work in our lab. Welcome at the BOKU!

March 2023

The large project "Renewal of the laboratory fume hoods" planned by Markus Blaukopf is finished. The benefits are;

  • gain in ventilation capacity
  • gain in working space in fume hoods
  • quieter exhaust systems
  • gain in brightness
  • significant increase in lab safety


February 2023

Austrian Carbohydrate Workshop 2023

That was the 26th AustrianCabohydrateWorkShop

For the 26th time, the Austrian Carbohydrate Work Shop (ACWS), the annual meeting of the Austrian carbohydrate and glycoconjugate community (, took place. The meeting which is held annually alternating between Vienna and Graz, traditionally does not require participation fees and focuses mainly on young scientists. For the second time after 2020, the event was jointly organized by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) and TU Vienna at TutheSky.

Herein GÖCH President Prof. Peter Gärtner announced establishment of the new Carbohydrate Chemistry working group (Head: Dr. Christian Stanetty, Vienna University of Technology), which is in in close partnership with the broader orientated Austrian Carbohydrate Network.

Due to the support of numerous sponsors (TU Vienna, BOKU, GÖCH, Arkeon, Büchi, Thermo Fisher, Bartelt, Magritek, Agrana, Waters, Jungbunzlauer), it was again possible to use the exclusive TUtheSky location, host internationally renowned speakers, and enjoy snacks and drinks in between the exciting scientific program.

The high scientific qualitity was underlined by the two guest speakers Martina DelBianco (MPIGK Potsdam) and Tom Wennekes (Utrecht University), who offered an inspiring insight into their broad fields of research.

Fortunately, at the end of the event, the successful application to hold the European Carbohydrate Symposium 2032 in Austria was announced by Prof. Tanja Wroddnigg, the Austrian representative in the international carbohydrate communities (ECO, ICO).

The community is looking forward to seeing you again in Graz in February 2024.

Februar 2023

New Postdoc in the Zamyatina lab

Sakar Biswajit has started in Team Zamyatina as Postdoc. Welcome at BOKU!

January 2023

New Postdoc in the Kosma lab

Recently Goto Takaaki has started in Team Kosma as Postdoc. Welcome at BOKU!

January 2023

New Postdoc in the Pfrengle Group

Recently, Duhwa Lee has started in Team Pfrengle as Postdoc. Welcome at BOKU! Duhwa is a biologist and will work among other things on the interactions of plant immune receptors with synthetic oligosaccharides.

December 2022

team spirit beside science

christmas party in the legendary 12 Apostel-Keller in Vienna


Nwe Postdoc in the Zamyatina lab

Madhuri Vangala has started in Team Zamyatina as Postdoc. Welcome at BOKU!

Austrian Carbohydrate Workshop 2022

Our whole workgroup joined the Austrian Carbohydrate Workshop in Graz on July 7th- 8th. Irene, Uwe, Ignacio and Colin presented their work on the conference.

New postdoc in the Pfrengle lab

Recently Didier Ndeh has startet in Team Pfrengle as a Postdoc. He is a biologist and received a Marie Curie Fellowship. Have a good start at the BOKU!

June 2022

Two new PhD-students in the Pfrengle lab

Sara Capellato and Remya Kumbappilliyl Rajan have started their PhD-work in the lab of Fabian Pfrengle. Welcome at the BOKU!


May 2022

Two new PhD-students in the Pfrengle lab

Nivedya Ayinikkattuparambil Unmesh and Katharina Obleser have started their PhD-work in the lab of Fabian Pfrengle. Welcome at the BOKU!

December 2021

New FWF funding

Fabian Pfrengle’s group received new funding from the FWF!

  • Synthetic Glycan Ligands for Plant Immune Receptors
  • Synthesis and application of RG-II oligosaccharides

We look forward to welcome new people in the lab!

March 2021

Two new PhD-students in the Zamyatina lab

Angela del Prete and Alessandro Monti have started their PhD-work in the lab of Alla Zamyatina. Welcome at the BOKU!

January 2021

Return of the Schrödinger Fellow!

Dr. Nino Trattnig has returned after a Postdoc stay in the lab of Prof. Geert-Jan Boons at the University of Utrecht. This is the return phase of his Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship.

Here are two of his publications, published during his time at BOKU before his postdoc stay

welcome back!

autumn 2020

Charlotte Olagnon has been awarded the Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship!

Receiving the Schrödinger Fellowship, Charlotte will spend the next two years in the lab of Prof. Stephen Withers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Congrats!

July 2020

New book chapter in "Methods in Molecular Biology"

Fabian has written a book chapter on practical aspects of automated syntheses of plant cell wall oligosaccharides which is now online after a long waiting period

June 2020

New PhD-student starts in June 2020!

We welcome Irene Pasini as the newest member of the Pfrengle group.
All the best for your PhD work!

May 2020

New Paper in "Angewandte Chemie"

Our paper on a new glycan array-based method for the identification and characterization of plant glycosyltransferases has been accepted in Angewandte Chemie. Using azido-functionalized nucleotide sugar donors, we were able to visualize the activity of various glycosyltransferases directly on a glycan array. We are looking forward to screen many more plant glycosyltransferases in the coming years using this high-throughput method. Congratulations Colin!