Biotechnology

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:

News

07 April 2016

Two ERC Advanced Grants for TU Delft researchers

Two TU Delft researchers have been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. Yuli Nazarov and Jack Pronk will both receive this European grant, which is only awarded to five-year projects conducted by internationally established research leaders. Higher-dimensional topological solids realized with multi-terminal superconducting junctions Prof. Yuli Nazarov of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience (Applied Sciences) will receive an ERC Advanced Grant of €1.5 million for his research proposal on HITSUPERJU (Higher-dimensional topological solids realized with multi-terminal superconducting junctions). His project focuses on topological materials: materials that exhibit the properties of conductors and insulators simultaneously in certain states. Topological materials were only discovered relatively recently, and they have since become a hot topic in the world of solid-state physics. These exotic materials are fundamentally interesting and also hold promise for concrete applications (such as a quantum computer based on Majorana fermions). However, they are very difficult to prepare and control. Yet some properties of topological materials can be closely simulated using a multi-terminal superconducting junction. Nazarov will put together a team of theorists to investigate this and formulate concrete suggestions for experiments and applications. Eliminating Oxygen Requirements in Yeasts Prof. Jack Pronk of the Department of Biotechnology (Applied Sciences) will receive an ERC Advanced Grant of €2.5 million to conduct research on the oxygen requirements of yeasts and fungi. The project, entitled ELOXY (Eliminating Oxygen Requirements in Yeasts), aims to shed light on the as yet unanswered question of why many yeasts and fungi need molecular oxygen. Even when these micro- organisms can obtain plenty of energy from anaerobic fermentation processes, they still need small amounts of oxygen - and nobody knows why. This conundrum is not only of scientific interest, but is also relevant for large-scale application of yeasts and fungi in anaerobic industrial processes.

03 March 2016

A sustainable, good, affordable Hib vaccine for every child

With her doctoral research, TU Delft doctoral candidate Ahd Hamidi has made a major contribution to developing an innovative, scalable, affordable version of the Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) vaccine developed by Intravacc. This low-cost vaccine has now been used to protect 200 million children worldwide against Hib diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis and otitis media. Hamidi has defended her dissertation at TU Delft on Thursday 3 March. Gram stain of Haemophilus influenzae type b bacterium Since the 1990s, children in high-income countries have been vaccinated on a large scale with Hib vaccine, which protects against Hib diseases such as meningitis. Since 1993, the Hib vaccine has also been included in the Dutch National Vaccination Programme. ‘The introduction of Hib-vaccine in developing countries was slow, mainly because of its relatively high price. Further, the local vaccine manufacturers didn’t had access to the technology needed for the production of the vaccine’, says Hamidi. In Intravacc’s Hib project she worked on process development, making a major scientific and social contribution to the availability of approved registered low-cost Hib vaccine. Her dissertation also discusses ways of optimising the process and thus reducing the cost price still further, an attractive option for both current or future partners want. Technology transfer and price reduction Hamidi’s research focused on process development and technology transfer to vaccine manufacturers in developing countries, and using mathematical models to improve process knowledge and investigate whether further process optimisation (cost reduction) is possible. In 2013, one of Intravacc’s partners marketed the Hib vaccine, as part of a combined vaccine including four others, through UNICEF at a price that was three times lower than that of existing Hib vaccines, thus bringing it within reach of large numbers of children. If a further price reduction can be achieved, the countries concerned would be able to bear the cost of the vaccine themselves in future. The knowledge gained in the Hib project has meanwhile been transferred successfully to local manufacturers in Indonesia, China (via Korea) and India. UNICEF and GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) are both involved in distributing the vaccine. Mathematical models Hamidi collaborated closely with experienced process designers and vaccine experts at such institutions as Intravacc (formerly the Netherlands Vaccine Institute (NVI) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)) and with various vaccine manufacturers in Indonesia, China, Korea and India. She used the Delft process design method and the knowledge of experts at TU Delft to develop the mathematical models. This enabled predictable models of the Hib process developed and performing sensitivity analyses on the Hib process, thus showing the impact of particular choices on cost. ‘This approach can help both current and future Hib partners to make choices, for example between the use of existing production facilities and building new ones, or the optimum scale of production,’ explains Hamidi. Other vaccines This rational Delft method of process design, says Hamidi, can also be used very efficiently to develop other vaccines. While the process was being developed it was decided to protect it with a patent: partners have a license and their production method protected. More information After graduating in Chemical Engineering (MSc) and Bioprocess Design (PDEng) at TU Delft, Hamidi started working for the forerunners of Intravacc as a process technologist and subsequently project manager and technology transfer expert. In her dissertation she shares the lessons learned from the Hib project so that similar technology transfer projects can benefit from the experience. The project will help to reduce child mortality, one of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Hamidi published in the renowned journal Biotechnology Process in January 2016: ‘ Process development of a new Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine and the use of mathematical modeling to identify process optimization possibilities ’ Contact For more information about the dissertation 'Towards a sustainable, quality and affordable Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine for every child in the world' , please contact A. Hamidi MSc, A.Hamidi@tudelft.nl / Ahd.Hamidi@intravacc.nl tel. +31 30 2742066 or Claire Hallewas (TU Delft Press Officer), c.r.hallewas@tudelft.nl , +31 6 4095 3085.

News

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.”