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:
14 May 2020
How copper can damage a cellCopper is important for many processes in our body. Among other things, it supports the production of red blood cells, metabolism, and the formation of connective tissue and bones. Copper is also known to play a role in diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, we do not yet know exactly what that role entails. Researchers from Delft University of Technology and the Polish Academy of Sciences have now discovered a new piece of the puzzle. In order to be able to do its work, copper binds to different types of proteins in the cell. And although the complexes that are formed in this process are not harmful in themselves, temporary 'intermediate forms' appear to arise during the binding, which can lead to damage to the cell. The results of the research have been published in Angewandte Chemie.
30 April 2020
Investment of 14 million for better use of micro-organismsMicroorganisms can perform many processes useful to mankind, such as converting milk to cheese, keeping human and animal intestines healthy, and cleaning our water and environment. Together with Wageningen University & Research and Delft University of Technology, the Dutch Research Council (NWO) will invest almost 25 million euros in a research facility for investigating mixed microbial communities and their application. The research facility – called UNLOCK (UNLOCKing Microbial Diversity for Society) - consists of equipment and human resources that will be used to gather knowledge on micro-organisms effectively. Team-players Micro-organisms are natural team-players. They are essential for human health via the intestinal microbiome, and for processes like waste water treatment, soil fertilization for plant growth, and food preparation such as cheese or beer through fermentation. However, even though natural and man-made ecosystems are characterized by an enormous microbial diversity, research on microbial communities and their application in biotechnological processes historically has been conducted with a very limited number of strains isolated from these ecosystems. We are currently using no more than 1 per cent of the microbiological potential available in nature Ecosystem Besides that, research on micro-organisms usually focuses on a limited number of specific strains of organisms, while in nature micro-organisms always operate in ecosystems consisting of different species. ‘You could compare it to building a house’, says Robbert Kleerebezem, who is the Delft scientist involved in the project. ‘To build one, you need different experts, like masons, roofers, electricians and plumbers. You can pick out any one of them, and study what they are doing, but that won’t tell you anything about what the resulting house will look like.’ Eagerly awaited Wageningen and Delft have launched the new research facility UNLOCK to study mixed microbial cultures extensively. Various sub-areas of research will be integrated through UNLOCK. This development has been eagerly awaited by researchers studying mixed microbial communities. This integration will make significant scientific and societal breakthroughs possible. NWO's approval will make a 14.5 million euro funding available for the next decade, of which a third will go to TU Delft. Automated cultivation of ecosystems "In Delft we will be working on making automated systems in which we can cultivate ecosystems of micro-organisms in mixed compositions, and monitor them’, says Kleerebezem. ‘This makes UNLOCK a unique facility, because we will be able to do comparative studies on a large scale and in an efficient manner, in order to gain important insights into the interactions between micro-organisms’. New persepectives A total of 24.8 million euros will be invested in UNLOCK. Lead petitioner, Prof. Hauke Smidt is delighted with the approval. ‘This is fantastic. UNLOCK opens up entirely new perspectives for the discovery of new micro-organisms and ground-breaking research on mixed microbial communities’. UNLOCKing Microbial Diversity for Society In UNLOCK, Wageningen and Delft have joined forces towards full integration of all relevant fields of expertise in four complementary platforms: · The Biodiscovery platform (WUR-Microbiology) allows its users to discover and characterize new micro-organisms. In addition, there is a processing unit that allows for fully automated unlocking of biological samples for biomolecular analysis. · The Modular bioreactor platform (WUR-Environmental Technology) facilitates research for sustainable solutions to environmental issues, such as the degradation of (micro) pollutants, sustainable energy generation and reclaiming resources from complex waste streams. · With the Parallel Bioreactor platform (TU Delft -Biotechnology), users can simultaneously conduct dozens of experiments in bioreactors for comparative analysis on how process variables affect system development. · The FAIR data platform (WUR-Systems & Synthetic Biology) takes care of the storage, processing and interpretation of large quantities of data flowing from the experimental systems in a cloud-based infrastructure based on the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable). Large-scale Scientific Infrastructure NWO has allocated a total of 93 million euros to seven projects. The Ministry of Culture and Education makes funds available to NWO for the National Roadmap for a Large-scale Scientific Infrastructure. These funds enable the building and overhaul of essential research infrastructures. The awarded scientific infrastructures are of critical importance to innovative scientific research, and as a stimulus for economic and societal innovations across all scientific disciplines. Robbert Kleerebezem +31 15 2781091 firstname.lastname@example.org
17 April 2020
European Commission greenlights large international water projectThe European Commission has signed the grant agreement for WATER MINING, a 17 million euro project aimed at demonstrating innovative water resource solutions. As part of the project, demonstrations in Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Italy and The Netherlands will be built to show novel efficient ways to reclaim nutrients, minerals, energy and water from industrial and urban wastewater and seawater. The public-private consortium consists of 38 public and private partners and 4 linked third parties in 12 countries. It will be led by Delft University of Technology (TU Delft).
23 November 2017
A biological approach to using waste gasesScience funding body NWO-TTW and partners in industry are investing EUR 3.8 million in a consortium that will use micro-organisms to convert syngas into useful chemical building blocks in a sustainable way. By doing so, the consortium intends to contribute to the circular economy and reduce CO2 emissions.
07 June 2017
Bio-energy: not a bad ideaBiofuels don't have a particularly good reputation. Undeservedly so, says Professor Patricia Osseweijer from the department of Biotechnology. Bearing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in mind, she is currently arguing the case for more investment in bio-energy. Not only because biofuels are renewable, but also because smart investment in bio-energy can play a part in the social development of deprived areas.
26 May 2017