One of the ultimate goals of biotechnology is to design processes that deliver attractive molecules – small molecules (eg pharma intermediates, bulk chemicals, biofuels) as well as biopharmaceuticals (pharmaceutical proteins, DNA, vaccines) – in a commercially viable manner. Process design in biotechnology is a highly interdisciplinary activity that requires the active cooperation of “upstream people” (looking into biocatalyst design, media development), reaction technologists (looking into reactor design), and “downstream people” (looking into product purification) already at a very early stage of process development. One of the key problems in bioprocess design is related to the fact that a product that accumulates to an attractive concentration very often results in a number of process problems. This becomes very clear when considering manufacturing of an antibiotic: producing an antibacterial compound with bacteria is prone to be difficult. Today, a whole range of concepts is available in order to circumvent such problems, ranging from technological solutions to molecular biology techniques. Within the process group, we explore cutting edge technology and genetic engineering in order to guarantee reaction environments for our biocatalysts that enable very effective processes.
The projects involve the biocatalytic production of fine chemicals, the production of antibiotics, or the production of novel biomaterials. In the fine-chemical field, we overproduce recombinant enzymes in our model organism, Escherichia coli. We are particularly interested in providing solutions for thermodynamically limited reactions, such as isomerisations and C-C bond forming aldolase reactions that open up new synthesis routes for monosaccharides and other interesting compound classes. We apply continuous chromatography to separate products from educts and thus provide excellent theoretical yields.
In antibiotic production, we investigate novel methods for “in situ product recovery” for instable and inhibiting antibiotics, both on the process and on the biocatalyst side.
For biomaterials, we design a novel biocatalyst that is able to produce repetitive amino acid-based polymers.
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