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

25 november 2021

BEI Best MSc Graduate 2021: Alicia Rodríguez Molina!

BEI Best MSc Graduate Awards 2021 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, sixteen very impressive theses were submitted. After a strenuous review and discussion, the jury finally agreed that Alicia Rodríguez Molina (MSc Life Science & Technology), Akash Singh (MSc Computer Science) and Jette Bloemberg (MSc Mechanical Engineering) have delivered the most innovative, interdisciplinary bioengineering projects of 2021. On top of eternal fame, they will receive personal cash prizes of €1000, €500 and €250. 1. Alicia Rodríguez Molina (MSc Life Science & Technology) Thesis: "TPR-CHAT is a caspase-like protease that forms a complex with the CRISPR-Cas type III-E endoribonuclease effector gRAMP” Daily supervisor: Sam van Beljouw (Applied Sciences, Bionanoscience) Thesis Committee: Stan Brouns (AS/BN), Peter-Leon Hagedoorn (AS/Biotechnology), Chirlmin Joo (AS/BN) “Alicia has made large contributions to our research discovering a new CRISPR-Cas system with potentially profound implications and new applications. She has been responsible for the major discovery that links a protease (protein cleaving enzyme) to CRISPR-Cas for the first time. The protein complex she identified was named Craspase and can likely trigger cell suicide in bacteria to protect bacteria from virus infection. We anticipate that Craspase can be converted to a tool for applications in molecular diagnostics, targeted knockdown of gene expression and biomolecule activation or deactivation in cells. A patent was also filled to protect some of these ideas. Importantly, her findings were included in a paper published in Science August 26 (attached) on which she was third author.” 2. Akash Singh (MSc Computer Science) Thesis: “Unsupervised Manifold Alignment with TopoGAN” Thesis Committee: Marcel Reinders (EWI/Pattern Recognition and Bioinformatics), Christoph Lofi (EWI/Web Information Systems), Ahmed Mahfouz (EWI/PRB and LUMC/Radiology), Tamim Abdelaal (LUMC/Radiology) “In his thesis, Akash developed TopoGAN, a deep learning method to solve the challenging task of integrating single cell datasets with no matching samples (i.e. cells) or features. Akash’s thesis proposes multiple innovative ideas to address this challenge. First, Akash showed that Topological Autoencoders can capture the heterogeneity of single cell data better than current approaches such as (variational autoencoders, tSNE and UMAP). This on its own is a significant contribution to the field. Second, Akash proposed an approach to tackle the instability of GAN methods in the task of manifold alignment, which can be generally applied in other fields of machine learning. Third, in evaluating the performance of his method, Akash showed that current strategies have severe shortcomings and should as such be revised to faithfully reflect the performance of different methods.” 3. Jette Bloemberg (MSc Mechanical Engineering) Thesis: “MRI-Ready Actuation System for a Self-Propelling Needle” Supervisors: Fabian Trauzettel (3mE/Biomechanical Engineering), Dimitra Dodou (3mE/BmechE), Paul Breedveld (3mE/BmechE) Thesis Committee: Paul Breedveld (3mE/BmechE), Fabian Trauzettel (3mE/BmechE), Dimitra Dodou (3mE/BmechE), Matthijs Langelaar (3mE/Precision and Microsystems Engineering), Jovana Jovanova (3mE/MTT) “Jette did a very interesting research into a new kind of self-propelled steerable needle for prostate interventions under MRI. She developed a perfectly working prototype, bio-inspired on the anatomy of parasitic wasps. (…) Based on a past PhD project in which we developed novel, self-propelling needles based on the ovipositor-anatomy of parasitic wasps, Jette brought this research to an entirely new level. In her project we wanted to evaluate ovipositor-inspired needles on human prostate tissue under MRI. This means that the design should not contain any metallic parts that react on the powerful magnetic MRI-field. To solve this issue, Jette designed an entirely novel manually-driven propulsion mechanism that she printed from plastic on Formlabs and Ulitimaker 3D-printers, thereby gaining a lot of know-how on how to design complex mechanisms with tight tolerances using 3D printers. Driven by her novel propulsion mechanism, Jette designed a very thin (Ø0,81mm) ovipositor needle composed out of six individually moveable NiTi rods. For the experiments in human prostate tissue, Jette set up a very close collaboration with a well-known urology group at the Amsterdam University Medical Center (AUMC), headed by Dr. Daniel Martijn de Bruin. Jette organised many meetings with this group, arranging human prostate tissue, and using an MRI-laboratory scanner at the AUMC for her experiments. As the space within this MRI-scanner was limited, she also developed a special experimental facility in which the tissue could be stored and moved with near zero friction.”

News

15 december 2020

Five 20k grants for cross-campus bioengineering research projects

In response to the first call for bioengineering research proposals, Delft Bioengineering Institute received a stunning amount of thirteen interfacultary proposals. After a thorough peer review process, eight very good to excellent proposals surfaced. From these, MT BEI has selected the five winning projects listed below. We want to thank all BEI PIs for submitting proposals and all reviewers for their efforts, knowing they were all quite busy already. We hope that 2021 will see the start of a second five-year term for the institute, so we can continue to support these promising cross-campus collaborations! >> Biochars for reducing methane emissions Methane has a high global warming potential, and landfill is one of the largest contributors of global human-caused methane emissions. Methane treatment using engineered microbial oxidation systems is one of the ways to reduce these emissions. Biochars, carbon-rich materials produced from sources such as municipal solid wastes, wastewater sludge and wood, have gained interest in the waste management industry as media to enhance control of landfill gas emissions. In this project, led by Julia Gebert of Geoscience & Engineering (CiTG), BEI PIs of four TU Delft faculties team up to investigate the potential of biochars for enhancing microbial methane oxidation in biofilters. Project title: Effects of biochar on the performance of microbial CH4 oxidation in biofilters to reduce landfill gas emissions. BEI PIs: Julia Gebert (CiTG/GSE), Wiebren de Jong (3mE/P&E), Aljoscha Wahl (TNW/BT), Martin Pabst (TNW/BT), Thomas Abeel (EWI/Bioinformatics) >> Regenerating neuronal circuits using ultrasound People suffering from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, have impaired neuronal circuits. Generation of new neuronal circuits by using a patient’s own stem cells may prove helpful in treating the disease. One of the difficulties in inducing neurons from stem cells, is the low efficiency rate we are able to achieve so far. In this project, BEI PIs Tiago Costa of Microelectronics (EWI) and Dimphna Meijer of Bionanoscience (TNW) join forces to explore the use of ultrasound for effectively building active neuronal networks from stem cells. Project title: SoundCircuit: Regeneration of neuronal circuits using ultrasound BEI PIs: Tiago Costa (EWI/ME), Dimphna Meijer (TNW/BN) >> Medical implants to investigate cell mechanobiology In order to study the cell’s behaviour and differentiation, we need to be able to measure the mechanical, electrical and biochemical signals that are dynamically transmitted throughout the cells. This requires the creation of biomaterial models equipped with different sensor types. In this project, BEI PIs Mohammad J. Mirzaali of Biomechanical Engineering (3mE) and Massimo Mastrangeli of Microelectronics (EWI) will team up to design, fabricate and test the proof-of-concept for medical implants equipped with force sensors that can reach a sensitivity level of one micronewton, so the mechanobiology of cells can be effectively investigated. Project title: Sixth Sense Biomaterials BEI PIs: Mohammad J. Mirzaali (3mE/BM), Massimo Mastrangeli (EWI/ME) >> Advanced cellular nanoimaging Structural biology has been essential in understanding the cell. Studying the dynamics of biological systems requires advanced imaging tools, particularly those that can bring both high spatial and temporal resolutions. In this project, BEI PIs Chirlmin Joo of Bionanoscience (TNW) and Carlas Smith of Delft Centre for Systems and Control (3mE) will join forces to develop a novel methodology for fast absolute FRET distance measurement, taking advantage of smFRET (fast but biased molecular dynamics) and localization microscopy (unbiased but static localization). Project title: New structural biology by integrating nanoscopy and single-molecule Forster resonance energy transfer BEI PIs: Chirlmin Joo (TNW/BN), Carlas Smith (3mE/DCSC) >> 3D-printing bacterial electrodes for CO2 conversion In order to achieve a sustainable future, we need to use abundant molecules such as CO2, water and renewable electricity to create our organic chemicals and fuels. Microorganisms have the ability to enable upgrading of CO2 by microbial electrosynthesis. In this project, Ludovic Jourdin of Biotechnology (TNW) and Kunal Masania of the Shaping Matter Lab (LR) will team up to explore strategies to shape carbon electrodes into hierarchical porous electrodes for microbial electrosynthesis and study the role of hierarchical porosity on microbial and electrochemical activity. Project title: BACTRODE: Hierarchical 3D-printing of bacterial electrodes for breakthrough in CO2 conversion BEI PIs: Ludovic Jourdin (TNW/BT), Kunal Masania (LR/SML)

04 december 2020

In Memoriam: Prof.dr.ir. Herman van Bekkum (1932 – 2020)

Met droefheid moet ik je mededelen dat op 30 november 2020 onze zeer gewaardeerde emeritus hoogleraar Herman van Bekkum is overleden. Herman van Bekkum was van 1975-1976 Rector Magnificus van de Technische Universiteit Delft. In de periode van 1955-1998 was hij werkzaam voor de TU Delft. Daarbinnen heeft hij een korte periode bij Shell gewerkt, tussen 1959 en 1961, maar koos uiteindelijk toch definitief en met veel succes voor de TU Delft. Na zijn emeritaat in 1998 is hij nog vele jaren actief gebleven voor onze faculteit, zowel binnen Chemical Engineering als de katalysegemeenschap. Hij betekende veel voor de universiteit, in het bijzonder voor de faculteit Technische Natuurwetenschappen. Herman van Bekkum was een veelzijdig chemicus met een grenzeloze werklust. Hij heeft belangrijke wetenschappelijke bijdragen geleverd vooral met betrekking tot katalytische toepassingen van zeolieten en geordende mesopore materialen en non-food toepassingen van suikers. Daarnaast heeft hij door zijn aanstekelijke enthousiasme bij zijn medewerkers en studenten zijn liefde voor de organische chemie overgebracht en heeft hij hen tot grote prestaties weten te brengen. Terecht is hij daarvoor in 1996 beloond met de TU Delft Leermeesterprijs. Herman van Bekkum heeft altijd samenwerking met de industrie nagestreefd en hij slaagde erin om veel fondsen te verwerven en kon daarmee zijn grote creativiteit en nieuwsgierigheid bevredigen. Hij heeft diverse bestuurlijke functies verricht binnen en buiten de TU Delft. Binnen de TU Delft was hij Rector Magnificus van 1975-1976, en buiten de TU Delft vervulde hij rollen als voorzitter van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Chemische Vereniging (KNCV), en sinds 1995 was hij lid van de KNAW, een belangrijke wetenschappelijke onderscheiding. In 1980 werd hij benoemd tot erelid van de studievereniging het Technologisch Gezelschap (TG). Zijn unieke persoonlijkheid werd gekenmerkt door enthousiasme, grote betrokkenheid, efficiëntie in een soms chaotische omgeving, en een enorme snelheid van bewegen en denken. Medewerkers van TNW hadden soms letterlijk moeite om hem bij te houden in de wandelgangen. Ook wist hij altijd feilloos in zijn volle werkkamer de juiste documenten terug te vinden. Herman van Bekkum zal altijd in onze herinnering blijven en iedereen op de faculteit die het genoegen had hem te ontmoeten en met hem samen te werken koesteren die ervaring. Wij wensen zijn familie veel sterkte toe bij dit grote verlies. Paulien Herder, Afdelingsvoorzitter ChemE