The 7th BioSC Spotlight took place at RWTH Aachen University on 5th February. Scientists from different disciplines discussed challenges and new developments for the production of materials and chemicals from the heterogeneous raw materials of a circular economy.
The production of chemicals and materials in a circular bioeconomy will be characterized by new process chains in which biocatalysis with microorganisms and enzymes will play an important role. Biogenic raw materials cover a broad spectrum from perennial biomass to agricultural waste streams. In addition, there are non-biogenic carbon sources such as CO2 or plastic waste. To deal with this broad spectrum of starting materials, the conventional "one substrate - one product" concept needs to be evolved to complex "multi substrate - multi product" process chains in which biocatalysis and classical chemocatalysis are combined.
These challenges set the content framework for the 7th BioSC Spotlight which took place on February 5th in the new research building NGP2 of Aachener Verfahrenstechnik. After the introduction by Wolfgang Wiechert (Forschungszentrum Jülich), Gunnar Lidén (University of Lund) presented his work on the valorisation of lignin. Due to its chemical heterogeneity lignin is difficult to process and is often only thermally utilized. The concept developed at the University of Lund is designed to separate lignin at the very beginning of the digestion of plant biomass, to break it down chemically into its various monomers and to have microorganisms synthesise aromatic valuable substances from it. Subsequently, Niklas Tenhaef (Forschungszentrum Jülich) presented his work with Corynrebacterium glutamicum strains that have been optimised to be able to use xylose from lignocellulose-containing biomass such as bagasse or coffee grounds and produce high-quality chemicals from it.
The second session focused on the microbial production of bulk chemicals. Susanne Zibek (Fraunhofer IGB, Stuttgart) presented the development and optimisation of a production process for biosurfactants from renewable resources. Andreas Biselli and Christian Kocks (RWTH Aachen University) explained the challenges for process engineering concerning the separation and purification of biosurfactants in a biorefinery and presented the development of innovative procedures. Isabel Bator (RWTH Aachen) and Sonja Kubicki (HHU Düsseldorf) presented their work on the development and optimization of Pseudomonas putida strains for the production of rhamnolipids from sugar beet residues.
The last session focuses on the production of fine chemicals with the tools of Synthetic Biology. Markus Buchhaupt (DECHEMA Research Institute, Frankfurt am Main) presented the development of Pseudomonas putida strains that are able to synthesize terpenoids. Ilka Axmann (HHU Düsseldorf) spoke about the use of algae as production organisms and presented the production of triterpenes in microalgae. In the last lecture of the day Anita Loeschcke and Hannah Braß (HHU Düsseldorf) presented an innovative approach of using Pseudomonas putida to synthesize known bioactive natural compounds and vary their chemical structure in order to generate optimal active ingredients for specific applications.
The 7th BioSC Spotlight covered a broad spectrum of current questions and problems and was used by the approximately 40 participants for intensive discussions.