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.

News

28 May 2020

Awards for three researchers of AS

It's raining awards at the Faculty of Applied Sciences. No less than three researchers have been rewarded with various prizes over the past period. They are Ad van Well, Arthur Gorter de Vries and Jasmijn Hassing. Together with colleagues from 3mE, Ad van Well (Radiation Science & Technology) received the Vanadium Award for the best scientific article of 2019 in the fiel of vanadium research . The award is presented by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) in Great Britain. The article stems from the HTM/NWO Nano-steel project, in which Ad van Well and his colleagues, especially PhD candidate Chrysoula Ioannidou, are researching a new type of steel that is both strong and malleable: pure ferrite reinforced with nanoparticles of vanadium carbide. Ex-researcher A rthur Gorter de Vries (Biotechnology) received the Westerdijk Award for the best dissertation of the year in the category Environmental & Applied Microbiology . This award is presented by the Royal Dutch Society for Microbiology (KNVM) and the Dutch Society for Medical Microbiology (NVMM). Gorter de Vries was frequently in the news before his promotion, among other things because he witnessed the emergence of a new gene in the lab and because of his discovery that all pilsner yeasts, the famous microorganisms that brewers produce hundreds of billions of litres of lager and other lager beers with every year, were created some 500 years ago in a one-off encounter between two types of yeast . Jasmijn Hassing, like Gorter de Vries from the group of Jean-Marc Daran (Biotechnology), received the Kiem Award. This prize is also awarded by the KNVM/NVMM, and is intended for excellent papers in which starting young microbiologists are the first authors. In order to qualify, the article must have been published in an internationally renowned journal in the past year. Hassing was awarded the prize for a paper on the production of 2-phenylethanol using yeast. 2-phenylethanol is an organic, aromatic compound that smells like roses and is widely used in the food and cosmetics industries.

30 April 2020

Investment of 14 million for better use of micro-organisms

Microorganisms 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 r.kleerebezem@tudelft.nl