There were two SEED FUND calls in 2018 as part of phase 2 of the NRW BioSC strategy project. The OPEN Call was without thematic restrictions while the LINK call focused on topics related to the FocusLabs. Five projects were selected and started at the end of 2018.
Project coordination: Dr. Vera Göhre, Prof. Dr. Michael Feldbrügge, Microbiology, HHU Düsseldorf
Dr. Vicente Ramirez; Prof. Dr. Markus Pauly, Plant Cell Biology and Biotechnology, HHU Düsseldorf
Prof. Walter Leitner, Technical and Petrol Chemistry, RWTH Aachen
Plant lignocellulosic material represents approximately one third of crop biomass, but its digestion into sugars is often under very harsh conditions, limiting its suitability for the production of chemicals. Therefore, maize mutant lines with optimized lignocellulosic composition were generated. However, such changes might reduce disease resistance, since the cell wall is the first physical barrier against pathogen attack. In the iBiomass project, infection experiments are carried out on optimized maize lines with smut fungi. The maize lines are classified according to vulnerability (infection) and analyzed according to cell wall composition (analysis); the homogenate of the infected biomass is tested in the OrganoCat process (valorization). With this approach, the usability of new biomass plants under increasing pathogen pressure will be comprehensively evaluated.
Duration: 12 months
Project coordination: Dr. Ulrich Krauss, Prof. Dr. Karl-Erich Jaeger, Molecular Enzyme Technology, HHU Düsseldorf
Prof. Dr. Björn Usadel, Botany and Molecular Genetics, RWTH Aachen
Dr. Holger Klose, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schurr, IBG-2 Plant Sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Alkanes and alkenes are one of the most important classes of hydrocarbons for the production of next-generation drop-in biofuels and plastics. Recently, a new class of alkane/alkene synthesizing photoenzyme was discovered in the algae Chlorella variabilis and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which for catalysis relies on blue-light illumination (fatty acid photodecarboxylases; FAPs). Despite their promise as efficient alkane/alkene-producing biocatalysts, important biotechnologically relevant properties remain largely uncharacterized and their phylogenetic distribution is unknown; hence alternative FAPs, with potentially superior biotechnologically-relevant properties, remain to be identified and explored. In the HySyn project, the two currently known FAPs of C. variabilis and C. reinhardtii, as well as new FAP enzymes identified by gene mining and sequencing of related/resilient microalgae, will be analyzed with regard to their biotechnologically relevant properties.
Duration: 12 months
Project coordination: Dr. Anna Joëlle Ruff, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schwaneberg, Biotechnology, RWTH Aachen
Dr. Ladislav Nedbal, Dr. Christina Kuchenberg, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schurr, IBG-2 Plant Sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Dr. Sabine Willbold, Dr. Stephan Küppers, ZEA-3 Analytics, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Phosphate is a main component of fertilizers. Consequently, recycling concepts for phosphorus are essential for ensuring self-sustaining food production in Europe and avoiding rapid depletion of concentrated natural deposits. QuantiP will contribute to phosphate stewardship by developing a novel P-quantification platform that will strengthen the development of P-recovery concepts. QuantiP aims to achieve a sophisticated and unmatched quantification of P-storage forms through a combination of 31P-NMR spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy. Quantification and discrimination among P-storage molecules - in algae and yeast cells as well as in enzymatic treated plant materials samples - will be implemented to allow P-uptake in algae to be monitored and to determine P-content in plant materials from phytate hydrolysis (e.g. rapeseeds press cakes) and polyphosphate accumulation (yeast and algae).
Duration: 12 months
- linked to FocusLabs HyImPAct and greenRelease -
Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Sonja Herres-Pawlis, Bioinorganic Chemistry, RWTH Aachen
Prof. Dr. Laura Hartmann, Macromolecular Chemistry, HHU Düsseldorf
Prof. Dr. Andreas Jupke, Fluid Process Engineering, RWTH Aachen
This project comprises the full life-cycle of novel bioplastics, starting from biotechnologically produced platform chemicals, purification by novel electrochemical separation technology and polymerization via tailored robust metal catalysts. Subsequently, these polymers will be refined by state-of-the-art macromolecular methods and their biodegradability will be tested. The FocusLab HyImPAct provides biotechnologically produced chemicals such as succinic acid, 1,4-butanediol, ketoglutarate and protocatechuic acid. Finally, biofunctionalized bioplastics (bio2plastics) will be obtained that can be useful for drug delivery tests in the FocusLab greenRelease.
Duration: 24 months
-linked to FocusLabs HyImPAct und AP3 -
Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Martina Pohl, Core Group Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wiechert, IBG-1 Biotechnology, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Dr. Bernd König, Prof. Dr. Dieter Willbold, Physical and Structural Biology, HHU Düsseldorf
Prof. Dr. Jochen Büchs, Biochemical Engineering, RWTH Aachen
The use of xylose from lignocellulose in addition to glucose is mandatory for developing economical biomass-based processes. For the development of corresponding microbial strains, adopting this pentose sugar as a C-source, XyloSenS will unlock new analytical tools.
Genetically encoded FRET-based biosensors are a cutting-edge technology to measure metabolite concentrations inside living cells. Recently, the project partners developed the tools to make them available for extracellular measurements. XyloSens will develop a toolbox of FRET-based xylose sensors that enable the detection of xylose as an alternative C source in microcultivation devices.
The project is linked to the HyImPAct FocusLab and can also contribute valuable results to the AP3 FocusLab.
Duration: 24 months