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Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Newsletter | December 2021 | Download PDF


SEED FUND 3.0 - New projects:
Plant protection, nutrient recycling, biomass conversion

Photo: Cristina Menta (CC BY 3.0)

ProRNA - Microbial production and application of dsRNAs as innovative bio-agents for new non-chemical crop protection strategies in agri- and horticulture

Project coordination:  Dr. Tino Polen, IBG-1 Biotechnology, Forschungszentrum Jülich

Dr. Sylvia Schleker, Prof. Dr. Florian Grundler, INRES – Moleculare Phytomedicine, University of Bonn
Dr. Tino Polen, Prof. Dr. Michael Bott, IBG-1 Biotechnology, Forschungszentrum Jülich

Soil-dwelling plant-parasitic nematodes cause annual economic damage of around 100 billion US dollars in crop cultivation worldwide. Chemicals to control them are harmful to the environment and banned in most countries. The ProRNA project aims to test whether the mechanism of RNA interference, in which the translation of a specific mRNA to protein is interrupted with the help of a complementary RNA, is suitable as an environmentally friendly alternative. However, the RNA must be "packaged" in such a way that it is not immediately degraded in the soil.

In the course of the project, target genes and suitable sequences for RNA interference are selected from the genome of a nematode species that infests carrots. Subsequently, production strains and expression cassettes are developed and the microbial production of double-stranded RNA is established. The obtained dsRNAs will be tested in different formulations in vitro and in vivo on nematodes, plants and soil samples.

Funding period: 24 months


Phytase model according to PDB 1HP

ScreenP - Metabolic burden coupled phytase screening for sustainable phosphate recycling

Project coordination:  Dr. Anna Joëlle Ruff, ABBT - Biotechnology, RWTH Aachen

René Hanke, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jochen Büchs, AVT - Bioprocess Engineering, RWTH Aachen
Dr. Sabine Willbold, Dr. Stephan Küppers, ZEA-3 Analytics, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Dr. Anna Joëlle Ruff, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schwaneberg, ABBt - Biotechnology, RWTH Aachen

Phosphate is a major component of fertilizer and essential for agriculture. Excess phosphate ends up in sewage sludge or in water bodies where it can harm the environment and is effectively lost for further use. At the same time, global phosphate reserves will be exhausted in 300 years at the latest. Concepts for the recovery of phosphate, e.g. from agricultural residual flows or wastewater, are therefore urgently needed.

In previous BioSC projects (P-ENG, QuantiP), the enzymatic recovery of phosphate from rapeseed press cake using phytases was successfully carried out. In the ScreenP project, a novel product-specific high-throughput screening system for enzyme optimization will be developed to provide tailored phytases for different residual streams. Protein engineering methods will be combined with measurement of enzyme expression via the respiration rate of the production organism as well as NMR-based identification and quantification of the obtained phosphate.

Funding peroid: 12 months


Photo: istock/Judi Parkinson

PREDIG - Modelling software to predict the enzymatic digestion of biomass

Project coordination: Dr. Adélaïde Raguin, Computational Cell Biology, HHU Düsseldorf

Dr. Holger Klose, Dr. Philipp M. Grande, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schurr, IBG-2 Plant Sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Dr. Adélaïde Raguin, Prof. Dr. Martin Lercher, Computational Cell Biology, HHU Düsseldorf

To improve the economic viability of biorefinery concepts, it is important to be able to make predictions about efficiency. An important process step in many biorefinery concepts is the enzymatic saccharification of lignocellulose. However, it is difficult to optimize due to the variability and heterogeneity of the substrate. Here, new methods for modeling as well as a deeper understanding of the underlying biochemical processes are needed.

Based on preliminary work, the PREDIG project aims to develop a free, open-source, modular and user-friendly software suitable for modeling saccharification processes for different types of biomass. Fundamental questions on mechanisms and kinetics as well as applied questions e.g. on optimal enzyme cocktails will be addressed. Experiments on the effect of structural properties of biomass on saccharification will complement existing data sets before the mathematical model is elaborated and a user interface is developed.

Funding period: 12 months


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