2016 BMBF Research Award

  2016 BMBF research award winners together with Dr. Christina de Witt (BMBF) iba e.V.

From the left: Award winner Kristin Gutekunst, Christina de Witt from BMBF und award winner Professor Ulrich Schwaneberg


Professor Schwaneberg receives 2016 BMBF research award

Professor Schwaneberg receives the research award from BMBF endowed with 1.7 million Euros for the “Next Generation of Biotechnological Processes”

Since 2012, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research - BMBF - grants this award every two years within the Initiative Biotechnology 2020+. Together with the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and universities, the Federal Ministry founded this initiative in 2010. Major scientific breakthroughs for bio-based productions are acknowledged by these grands. We are pleased to announce that Professor Schwaneberg was honored in 2016 with the award “Next Generation of Biotechnological Processes" from BMBF. With this 1.7 million Euro award, funding of a research group for five years will be possible. The coordination of this funded project will be managed in the Schwaneberg group by Johannes Schiffels.

The award winner, Professor Ulrich Schwaneberg, develops a technology platform to utilize established production organisms for the material production in organic solvents. The general use of production organisms would catalyze the convergence of material production industries via chemical synthesis and biotechnological procedures and allow new integrated and combined material production processes. Inspired from nature, nanogels are used, which stick to cells and generate synthetic biofilms. These thin synthetic biofilms protect the cells from organic solvents without hindering material transfer significantly. The binding of the nanogels to the bacterial surface takes place via a procedure involving anchor peptides, whereby this platform is submitted for patent.

E. coli was selected as model organism. For the whole cell catalysis selective P450-monooxygenases and hybrid catalyst systems were selected. Monooxygenases catalyze chemical "dream reactions" like chemoselective hydroxylation of aromatic compounds with ambient temperature with oxygen as a green oxidizing agent. The productivity is often limited by the low water solubility of hydrophobic substrates or the stability of hybrid catalysts in water. Hybrid catalysts constitute a new class of catalysts, in which transitional metal complexes such as ruthenium are anchored in proteins. The integration of metal catalysts in protein surroundings allows up to now non-achievable chemoselective conversions. One important example is the Nobel prize-winning metathesis reaction in 2005, which is used industrially in large scales including olefin metathesis in the petrochemistry, synthesis of pheromones and pharmaceuticals like anti-inflammatory drugs. Enzymes do not catalyze the industrially used metathesis reaction. The control and selectivity over the protein surroundings in hybrid catalysts allows innovative and new processes particularly in the chemoselective synthesis of hardly water soluble like steroids, aromatic and cyclic hydrocarbons from their polymers, odoriferous substances and preliminary stages of pharmaceuticals. Monooxygenases as well as the whole cell hybrid catalysts are adapted by directed evolution to cost-effective production conditions. The method directed evolution is comparable to evolution in the nature, whereas directed evolution is million times accelerated compared to natural evolution.