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

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.

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.”