On November 19, 2019 the sixth internal retreat for BioSC members took place in Cologne. The projects from phase 2 of the NRW Strategy Project BioSC that had started in 2017 and 2018 were presented with short presentations. This was followed by workshops on the future opportunities for cooperation in different topic areas. Dr. Thomas Drepper (HHU Düsseldorf) and Dr. Stephan Noack (Forschungszentrum Jülich) were awarded the BioSC Supervision Award 2019.
The short presentations from the NRW strategy project started thematically with the provision and degradation of biomass. Philipp Grande (Forschungszentrum Jülich) gave an overview of current results in FocusLab AP3, in which an integrated biorefinery concept for the sustainable conversion of biomass from perennial plants using OrganoCat technology is established and economically validated. Vera Göhre (HHU Düsseldorf) then presented the results of the SEED FUND project iBiomass, in which the pest resistance of new biomass plants was investigated using the example of maize mutants with modified lignocellulose composition. Felix Jakob (RWTH Aachen) presented the current developments in the FocusLab greenRelease. Here, a new platform technology is being developed that aims to reduce the use of herbicides and fungicides by applying these substances to the plants in microgel particles and releasing them in a controlled manner over a longer period of time.
Julia Otten (Forschungszentrum Jülich) presented results from the SEED FUND project XyloSenS in which biosensors were developed that enable the online detection of xylose as an alternative carbon source in small cultivation systems. The project is thematically linked to the FocusLab AP3 and to the FocusLab HyImPAct which was subsequently presented by Dr. Stephan Noack (Forschungszentrum Jülich). HyImPAct develops a hybrid process consisting of microbial transformations, enzymatic reactions and chemical synthesis steps that makes it possible to produce various high-quality chemicals on the basis of lignocellulosic biomass. Sonja Herres-Pawlis (RWTH Aachen) informed about the SEED FUND project R2HPBio which is thematically linked to the FocusLabs HyImPAct and greenRelease. Here, biodegradable polymers are produced from platform chemicals made from renewable raw materials.
Nina Ihling (RWTH Aachen) presented the current status of work in the FocusLab Bio2, in which a competitive biorefinery process is being developed for the production of next-generation biosurfactants from residual streams from the food industry. Anita Loeschcke (HHU Düsseldorf) presented the results of the FocusLab CombiCom. The aim of CombiCom is to use synthetic biology to enable the sustainable production of natural substances and their chemical derivatives, to evaluate their efficacy, e.g. in plant protection, to investigate their acceptance by the general public and to develop strategies for their market launch. Ulrich Krauss (HHU Düsseldorf) presented the SEED FUND project HySyn, in which selected examples of a recently discovered class of alkane/alkene synthesizing photoenzymes were expressed to test their biotechnologically relevant properties. Anna Joëlle Ruff (RWTH Aachen) presented the results of the SEED FUND project QuantiP, which is developing a sensitive NMR methodology to quantify phosphate in algae, yeasts and plant material.
Finally, Sandra Venghaus (Forschungszentrum Jülich) presented the competence platform Transform2Bio which had been launched in September 2019. Transform2Bio examines the fundamental transformations of existing resource systems, value creation networks, business models, infrastructures and governance systems that are necessary for the establishment of a bioeconomy, using the example of the Rheinische Revier. There, the structural change initiated by the exit from coal, offers the opportunity to develop a regionally coherent bioeconomy. The establishment of an interactive stakeholder network is to enable the assessment of regional implementation options and create a basis for cooperation with the FocusLabs.
The short presentations were followed by workshops on opportunities for future collaboration within the BioSC. Under the headings "Sustainable plant production and resource management", "Biobased products and processes" and "Education", the participants developed new ideas and approaches for interdisciplinary research and training within the BioSC in groups of 8-15 persons.
At the end of the forum, the BioSC Supervision Award 2019 was awarded to Dr. Thomas Drepper from the Institute of Molecular Enzyme Technology (IMET) at HHU Düsseldorf and Dr. Stephan Noack from the IBG-1 Biotechnology at Forschungszentrum Jülich. With this award, the BioSC honours junior scientists and group leaders for excellent achievements in the supervision of doctoral candidates. It is endowed with 25,000 € each and is awarded in the frame of the NRW strategy project BioSC. Both nominations were supported by letters of recommendation from current and former doctoral students, who paid tribute to the outstanding commitment of the two prize winners.