Latest SCI publications

Latest Projects

Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-06-01 - 2022-05-31

Strain and process improvement is one of the most labour-intensive and time-consuming phases of biotechnology process development. High-throughput screening is usually in miniaturized static cultures which compromises scalability, so that further intermediate screening steps are needed. Maturing of existing technology to deal with additional cell culture types (i.e. mammalian cells) and incorporate further analytical developments to support metabolite and product screening requirements are identified as the key steps to creating a technology of commercial value. In this project, we propose to mature an existing µ-screening platform with two major pillars addressing these steps. Firstly, extending the applicability of the module to fermentation technology based on Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cultures. Secondly, to expand the analytical value of the platform using a combination of valve technology and mass spectrometry to develop a fully integrated platform suitable for application in biotechnology facilities.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-11-01 - 2023-10-31

Lignin is the most common renewable aromatic biopolymer. The molecule is still undergoing significant changes through various industrial conversion processes of wood or annual plants in the pulp and paper industry. As a result, lignin is obtained in large quantities and chemically modified form as "technical lignin". At present, an annual production of approx. 70 million tons worldwide is assumed. Despite large-scale availability, over 95% of the lignin obtained is used for energy production. As a result of the energy obtained and returned from this process, processes in the pulp and paper industry are considered to be largely energy self-sufficient. The discrepancy between availability and the very limited real use of lignin has posed a major challenge for academic and industrial research for decades - with varying degrees of intensity and success. Due to a worldwide rethinking, caused by the climate crisis and increasing carbon dioxide emissions, a clear trend towards a sustainable use of raw materials and a bio-economic overall design of various processes is becoming apparent. As a result, lignin has gained new momentum as a source of raw materials and is considered a "key player" in the substitution of petroleum-based raw materials and materials by renewable raw materials. This can be seen from the increase in research intensity and the resulting exponential growth of lignin patents in recent years. However, the implementation of existing, undoubtedly practicable ideas and their large-scale applications is progressing much more slowly. Therefore the question arises whether and why we are not yet able to fully understand and use technical lignins analogous to cellulose or petroleum? While we have had process chains for cellulose and its products for more than a hundred years to produce cellulose-based products such as paper, fibers or other derivatives, lignin is merely a waste product. Its high energetic value has been used thanks to the positive energy balance of the processes, but has otherwise only found a real material application as a niche product (lignosulfonate). Through processes such as Lignoboost (Thomani, 2009), which are already available and in use on a large scale, the isolation of technical lignins from the waste liquors of the kraft pulp process has become possible and makes technical lignin available for further processing practically worldwide.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2020-03-01 - 2022-11-30

Plant cell walls consist of a sophisticated composite largely made of several polysaccharide networks with essential functions in the life cycle of the plant. These cell wall polysaccharides receive an enormous interest as sources of sustainable materials and for the production of biofuels. To enhance the economic viability of exploiting biomass as a renewable resource, an increasing number of plants with modified polysaccharide composition are generated. However, a prerequisite to perform targeted genetic modifications is a detailed knowledge of cell wall polysaccharide biosynthesis. We recently produced a glycan microarray equipped with synthetic cell wall oligosaccharides. This microarray provides for the first time the opportunity to develop an assay for the simultaneous screening of various plant glycosyltransferases. The microarray will be incubated with chemically synthesized azido-functionalized sugar nucleotides and putative glycosyltransferases. Any incorporated azido-functionalized monosaccharide will be visualized by subsequent labeling with a fluorescent dye using click-chemistry. Thus, the microarray format of this high-throughput assay will not only be valuable for identifying new glycosyltransferases, but will directly provide information on their substrate specificities.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations