Dr. Vera D. Jäger was awarded the Excellence Prize of Forschungszentrum Jülich, together with two other young scientists. The prize is awarded for outstanding dissertations which have been largely conducted at Jülich, and is endowed with 5,000 Euro each. The dissertation dealt with the simple and cost-effective production of enzymes and with the sustainable production of hydrocarbons in archeae. Vera Jäger did her doctorate at the Institute for Molecular Enzyme Technology (HHU Düsseldorf), which is a member of the BioSC.
Environmentally friendly biotechnological processes based on enzymes play an increasingly important role in the production of food, biofuels or pharmaceuticals. However, the production of the necessary enzymes is complex and expensive. Therefore, universal, cheap and sustainable methods are needed to produce stable, simple and clean enzyme preparations for industrial use.
At the Institute of Molecular Enzyme Technology, Vera D. Jäger researched so-called inclusion bodies (IBs) in bacteria such as Escherichia coli, which according to the prevailing scientific opinion are nothing more than a collection of unfolded protein aggregates and thus inactive waste products. However, the researcher showed that IBs can contain considerable amounts of active enzymes under the right conditions. These "catalytically active IBs" (CatIBs for short) represent a possibility for the simultaneous production and stabilisation of enzymes. In this way, enzymes for potential applications in biotechnology and biomedicine can be produced remarkably quickly, easily and economically.
With her current research project, Vera D. Jäger broke new ground in two senses: At the University of Aalto in Finland, the chemist is investigating the entire metabolism of methanogenic archaeae - microorganisms in whose energy metabolism methane is produced - instead of individual enzymes in Escherichia coli. But here too, sustainability plays a central role: an essential factor in slowing down climate change is the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Methanogenic archaeae provide the ideal basis for this, as they metabolise CO2. However, the gas methane, which is also critical to the climate, is released in the process. The aim of the project, called "Ethanogens", is to reprogram the metabolism of archaeae to produce ethane and higher alkanes, which will not only help clean up the atmosphere, but also provide the basic products for biofuels.
Source: Forschungszentrum Jülich