Innovation is crucial to fulfil the potential of industrial biotechnology for sustainable production of fuels, chemicals, materials, food and feed. Similarly, scientific and technological advances in environmental biotechnology are needed to enable novel approaches to water purification, and ‘waste-to-product’ processes thus contributing to a circular economy. Increased fundamental knowledge encompassing enzymes, microorganisms and processes are essential for progress in this field. The Department of Biotechnology covers this research area and, based on new insights, selects, designs and tests new biobased catalysts, micro-organisms, and processes.
The department encompasses five research sections:
09 November 2023
Are Sustainability and Safety Incompatible?In the world of biotechnology, safety and sustainability might sometimes be at odds. When conflicts arise, decision-makers must carefully weigh the trade-offs, addressing potential risks and ethical concerns in order to make informed choices. According to two TU Delft professors, safety and sustainability need to go hand in hand to ensure that biotechnological processes and products are developed and managed responsibly. text Heather Montague Risks and responsibilities With the rise of the circular economy, finding ways to use waste for other purposes has become a hot topic. But there are risks involved, says Lotte Asveld , Associate Professor of Ethics & Biotechnology at TU Delft. “People have high standards when it comes to using wastes as resources. Anything that comes out of the sewer doesn’t feel very comfortable to have in your house.” In that sense, she sees a clash between sustainability and safety but also believes they should be combined. “We can’t make everything 100% safe, but we should look towards what risks people find acceptable.” Societal acceptance of using waste as a resource requires that regulations and responsibilities be well aligned. We also need to reevaluate the way we learn about risks, according to Asveld. She notes that biotechnology is strictly regulated, but in the chemical industry, companies themselves are responsible for learning about and identifying risks. “As new risky substances keep emerging, what needs to happen in the innovation ecosystem to make sure that these responsibilities have a place?” Learning about these risks is not always an inherent part of a company’s structure and that needs to change. “My objective is to make sure that safety is something that we talk about, that we don’t take for granted, that we discuss amongst each other; what does it mean, how can we achieve it, and how do we see our responsibility to society and achieving safety?” The future is green The term ‘green chemistry’ was introduced some thirty years ago, according to Ulf Hanefeld , Professor of Biotechnology at TU Delft’s Faculty of Applied Sciences. The aim is to enable society to make what is currently made, or alternatives, in a sustainable and safe manner. “So how can I make the compounds that we as a society think we need in a sustainable manner, starting from readily available materials, performing reactions that are inherently safe,” says Hanefeld. “For me, safety and sustainability go hand in hand.” There are advantages and opportunities that come along with green chemistry. If you take all the starting materials, make only products out of it and don’t generate any waste, that results in higher profit. And there is also an opportunity to develop a new chemistry. “Consider that our current chemistry always starts from petrochemicals, which are very low in terms of functionality,” Hanefeld explains. “If you use sustainable materials like sugars or lignin or plant waste, that is always highly functionalised. Because we have a new type of starter material, we’re doing it all new, and it is a chance to develop it safe from the start. Download article Download article
07 November 2023
Safe and affordable red blood cells without donorsThe production of cultured red blood cells (cRBCs) holds the promise of being a potentially unlimited source of cells that could meet the increasing demand for red blood cell transfusions.
25 July 2023
Going abroad: Rubicon grant for Aafke van AalstPhD Candidate Aafke van Aalst has received a Rubicon grant from NWO, which enables her to gain research experience at a leading institute abroad for two years. The coveted grant was awarded to 15 young, highly promising researchers in total.
22 March 2023
The Protein Transition: unchaining a revolutionWith pioneering patents, leading start-ups, strong scientific research and the presence of industrial giants like DSM, the Netherlands has everything it needs to lead a revolution in the field of meat substitutes and cultured meat. Unfortunately, the legislation relating to these products is slowing things down and promising start-ups are moving abroad. Is our country at risk of falling behind?
21 December 2022
BEI Best MSc Graduate 2022: Raman van Wee!BEI Best MSc Graduate Awards 2022 Since 2020, Delft Bioengineering Institute (BEI) organizes a cross-campus competition for MSc students who performed remarkably well at their graduation projects in bioengineering. This year, nine very impressive theses were submitted. After a strenuous review and discussion, the jury finally agreed that Raman van Wee (MSc Nanobiology), Nastaran Barin (MSc Mechanical Engineering) and Juancito van Leeuwen (MSc Nanobiology and Biomedical Engineering) have delivered the most innovative, interdisciplinary bioengineering projects of 2022. On top of eternal fame, they will receive personal cash prizes of €1000, €500 and €250. 1. Raman van Wee (MSc Nanobiology) Thesis: Using DNA Nanotechnology and Fluorescence for Single-Molecule Protein Identification Supervisor: Chirlmin Joo (TNW/BN) Chirlmin Joo: “Raman is absolutely outstanding! He grasped the whole picture of the project in less than a month and was much motivated and capable to lead the project by making a grand plan and executing it promptly. Throughout his master’s project, he demonstrated original and independent thinking, which has helped revealing the potential of the new technology. It has also resulted in new methods in my group for protein labelling and single-molecule studies of DNA-tagged proteins, which will be essential for the next phase of the project. The quality and quantity of his data exceeded the expectation. He produced two research articles (one of them published in iScience) as a co-author as well as a review paper as a leading author.” 2. Nastaran Barin (MSc Mechanical Engineering) Thesis: 3D-Engineered Scaffolds to Study Primary Glioblastoma Microtube Formation and EGFR Expression Supervisors: Angelo Accardo (TU Delft), Pim French (Erasmus MC) Angelo Accardo: “The work performed by Nastaran is a perfect example demonstrating the added value of combining two different disciplines. Regardless of her engineering background, Nastaran showed immediately an innate predisposition also for the biological part of this study (cell culture, confocal imaging and advanced image data analysis tasks) which is a remarkable feat. The results of her MSc thesis were awarded with a final grade of 9/10. After obtaining her Master’s at TU Delft, she embarked in a PhD program at Erasmus MC in collaboration with TU Delft under my and Pim French’s supervision. Having a mechanical engineering background, undertaking a PhD in a medical center like Erasmus MC is the proof of how Nastaran can easily bridge these two environments, ways of thinking and required skill-sets. Her work has been recently published in Small, one of the most prestigious interdisciplinary journals in the field of bioengineering, and even featured the front cover.” 3. Juancito van Leeuwen (MSc Nanobiology and Biomedical Engineering) Thesis: Engineering of protein based phononic crystals for contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging Supervisors: David Maresca (TNW/ImPhys), Valeria Garbin (TNW/ChemE) David Maresca: “Juancito has achieved and sustained an excellent level of research in the field of Biomolecular Ultrasound over the year that he has spent in my laboratory and that of Valeria Garbin. He is truly one of the most talented and hardworking master students I have worked with so far. In 2021, Valeria and I were awarded a BioDate MSc project entitled “Droplet‐based self‐assembly of gas vesicles for novel acoustic biosensors”, and in September, Juancito joined my research group as a MEP student to pursue this research project. Juancito’s research combined aspects of ultrasound imaging physics, molecular engineering, and microfluidics. It was truly an interdisciplinary research endeavour. He demonstrated that the assembly of protein-based ultrasound contrast agents could boost their acoustic scattering by fourfold. Based on this finding, he designed and tested microfluidic chips for the high-throughput fabrication of echogenic protein assemblies, that could ultimately serve as long circulating ultrasound contrast agents for neuroimaging. His research required to work proficiently with ultrasound imaging scanners, genetically encoded proteins, cryo-EM microscopes, microfluidic systems and phase contrast microscopes in multiple labs across campus. He defended his thesis for a double degree MSc and graduated Cum Laude.”
30 November 2022