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

05 July 2018

Delft Advanced Biorenewables attracts capital and commercial director for scale-up phase

Serial entrepreneur Jan Willem Klerkx participates and joins start-up Delft Advanced Biorenewables (DAB), that developed a unique technology to produce biochemicals and biofuels in a cheaper and more efficient way. Klerkx becomes shareholder and joins the management. Details about the investment are not published. DAB , a spin-off of TU Delft, has gone through an extensive development trajectory in the last four years and is now in the phase of scaling up, in which Klerkx will play an important role. Using his knowledge and experience, the serial entrepreneur regularly joins technology start-ups to strengthen them in the field of management and sales. Previously, he invested in the start-up Scyfer (artificial intelligence), which was taken over by Qualcomm last year. With DAB, Klerkx now focuses on sustainable energy. "I had the idea for a while to spend my time and energy on supporting the circular economy. What DAB does - reducing the production costs of biofuels and biochemicals - is an important contribution to this. The technology and scientific team of DAB are world-class. I look forward to making the company stronger commercially with my experience." DAB Corporate Movie from DelftAB on Vimeo . Director of DAB, Kirsten Steinbusch, is pleased with the arrival of Klerkx. "Jan Willem has proven to be able to make a difference in knowledge based start-ups. We can use his commercial skills and strategy to enable DAB to grow further." TU Delft also has an interest in DAB through ‘ Delft Enterprises ’. Director Paul Althuis: "TU Delft is committed to work on a sustainable future. That is why it is important that our scientists’ groundbreaking research also reaches the market. That is why we invest in promising technological innovations, such as those of DAB." DAB was founded in 2012 with the conviction that in the near future there will be an increasing demand for advanced fuels and chemicals that are produced from biomass. To make biobased an attractive alternative, the production process should become cost effective and scalable. DAB has developed a unique separation and reactor technology to convert organic material into biofuels and biological chemicals in a single process step, resulting in both lower costs and simplified production. DAB works closely with TU Delft and the Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) to scale up the technology. The joint research project is subsidized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, national regulations for Ministry of Economic Affairs subsidies and the ‘Top Sector Energie’ carried out by the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RVO). For more information, please contact Kirsten Steinbusch - Managing Director DAB

News

01 December 2020

Best Bioengineering MSc Graduate 2020: Nemo Andrea!

“An outstandingly talented biophysicist who seamlessly combines deep biological knowledge with a strong ability for physical abstraction and numerical analysis.” This is how supervisors Marileen Dogterom and Arjen Jakobi (Applied Sciences, Bionanoscience) describe MSc Applied Physics graduate Nemo Andrea. With his thesis “Actin-Microtubule crosstalk studied by cryo electron microscopy” (graded 9.5), Nemo has won Delft Bioengineering Institute’s BEI MSc Graduate Award 2020, comprising of a €1000 personal cash prize. Runners up are MSc Nanobiology graduate Christos Gogou (second prize, €500) and MSc Life Science and Technology graduate Allison Wolder (third prize, €250). Cytoskeleton ‘Actin-microtubule crosstalk’ refers to the functional interactions that exist between these two cytoskeletal systems in living cells. An increasing number of molecular crosslinkers responsible for these interactions are being identified, but detailed mechanistic knowledge on how they connect cytoskeletal filaments is missing. Such knowledge is of great importance for efforts that aim to engineer artificial cells with active cytoskeletal networks from the bottom up. Cryo-EM Taking advantage of recent advances in cryo-electron microscopy, Nemo set out to visualize the architecture of microtubule-actin filament interactions in the presence of an engineered crosslinker. These high-resolution images give valuable insight into how these two filaments affect each other’s dynamic properties, something that was phenotypically observed before with fluorescence microscopy, but not understood at the structural level. In addition, Nemo explored new artificial intelligence methods to reduce the noise level of his cryo-EM images, and independently adapted the algorithm to improve its performance. While the data are too preliminary in terms of statistics to be immediately publishable, the results obtained are completely novel and important for future research in this field. Runners-up Excellent Master thesis work was done as well by runners-up Christos Gogou and Allison Wolder. A short description of their research can be found below. Overall, Delft Bioengineering Institute was impressed by the quality of the ten reports that were submitted, and had a very hard time making a selection. We want to thank all students for their outstanding efforts, and their supervisors for composing their nominations. We hope 2021 will see the start of a second five-year term for the institute, so we can continue to stimulate promising research in the field of bioengineering. BEI Best MSc Graduate Awards 2020 Nemo Andrea – “Actin-Microtubule crosstalk studied by cryo electron microscopy” Supervisors: Marileen Dogterom and Arjen Jakobi (Applied Sciences, Bionanoscience) Taking advantage of recent advances in cryo-electron microscopy, Nemo set out to visualize the architecture of microtubule-actin filament interactions in the presence of an engineered crosslinker. In addition, Nemo explored new artificial intelligence methods to reduce the noise level of his cryo-EM images, and independently adapted the algorithm to improve its performance. Christos Gogou – “Constructing a cryo-EM assay for molecular voltage-sensitivity of liposome-reconstituted membrane proteins” Supervisor: Dimphna Meijer (Applied Sciences, Bionanoscience) Christos bioengineered a novel assay to test if neuronal proteins are sensitive to voltage fluctuations. More specifically, he designed lipid-based vesicles that can be tuned to any membrane potential of choice. Neuronal membrane proteins can then be inserted in these vesicles and visualized at high resolution by cryo-electron microscopy. This assay mimics the action potential of neurons in vitro. Allison Wolder – “Scaling up ene reductase-catalysed selective asymmetric hydrogenation” Supervisor: Caroline Paul (Applied Sciences, Biotechnology) Allison worked on scaling up an incredible enzymatic reaction: hydrogenation. This is notoriously difficult to do, and it requires exploration of the mechanism of the enzyme and its stability. She carried out her thesis in the front seat, thinking outside of the box, suggesting new approaches, making new connections with external companies. The presentation and report were of excellent quality. If you would like to read a thesis, please send a message to N.vanBemmel@tudelft.nl and you will receive a copy.