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The accelerating climate crisis combined with rapid population growth poses some of the most urgent challenges to humankind, all linked to the unabated release and accumulation of CO2 and waste across the biosphere. By harnessing our capacity to partner with biology, we can begin to take advantage of the abundance of available CO2 and waste carbon streams to transform the way the world creates and uses carbon-based materials.
LanzaTech has pioneered and commercialized a gas fermentation process for conversion of an array of carbon oxide containing gas streams (e.g. emissions from heavy industry, gasified agricultural or municipal waste, or from direct CO2 capture) leveraging carbon-fixing chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms and enable carbon-negative biomanufacturing of a wide range of fuels, chemicals, proteins and materials. Today, LanzaTech is operating several commercial plants and produced over 50 million gallons of ethanol while mitigating over 200,000 tons of CO2. LanzaTech has also developed technology to convert ethanol to jet fuel and scaled direct production of further chemical building blocks such as acetone and isopropanol through genetic engineering.
Only a decade ago, most carbon-fixing chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms were poorly understood, considered to be genetically inaccessible and mass-transfer of gases was perceived as a major scale-up hurdle. Advancements in Synthetic Biology, Process Engineering, Automation, AI and Modelling have enabled development and scale up of highly efficient production strains for carbon oxide conversion into a range of products that today rely exclusively on fresh fossil feedstocks and results in large amounts of CO2 emissions during manufacturing. In contrast, the LanzaTech process captures more CO2 than it emits, effectively taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and fixing it into the product.
Within the framework of the projects "ReGasFerm" and "GOLD", innovative process options utilizing biogenic residues and contaminated crops are examined. The concept integrates thermochemical and biotechnological process units to produce C2-C6 compounds in a biorefinery concept. More specifically, the concept incorporates two core technologies: the thermochemical conversion of biomass via entrained flow gasification and a downstream fermentative processing of the produced synthesis gas using microorganisms. Acetogenic bacteria strains metabolize synthesis gas and CO2 as carbon source to generate alcohols such as ethanol, butanol, 2,3-butandiol and hexanol. Feedstock such as green cuttings, residual leaves and contaminated crop are thus used in an efficient way. The application of an autothermal entrained flow gasification ensures a efficient utilization of the difficult accessible carbon content including lignin. Synthesis gas impurities can be minimized through high gasification temperatures, but can still cause significant problems in the fermentation process. Thus, selective and robust purification of the synthesis gas is crucial for the process to prevent degradation or inhibition of the utilized microorganisms.
The aim of our ongoing efforts is the proof-of-concept of the entire process chain for the utilization of residual and contaminated feedstock as a competitive technology to the reference process based on the catalytic utilization of synthesis gas. In parallel to experimental investigations with focus on the gasification and gas cleaning steps, techno-economic analysis and process simulations using AspenPlus for gasification, gas purification and gas fermentation are applied. These activities aim at an optimized concept for (decentralized) biorefineries and an estimation of a feasible plant size.
For the future, coupling thermochemical, biotechnological and electrochemical processes is seen as a highly promising way to address some of the most crucial challenges in a future bioeconomy. In the International Future Lab REDEFINE H2E, international researchers will join our efforts to advance our basic understanding.
The current environmental crisis threatens our way of life. This year, the United Nations published the Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting 2022 as critical to fulfilling the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report suggests the need for accelerated action on modern renewable energy to ensure affordable, reliable and sustainable energy. Gas fermentation using acetogens offers numerous sustainable advantages for the biological production of liquid fuels and chemicals. Acetogens play a key role in the global carbon cycle, capturing an estimated 20% of CO2 on Earth. Their ability to fix carbon makes acetogens perfectly suited for greenhouse gas valorization and carbon recycling. Gas fermentation is also agnostic to contaminants, scalable and economically viable even for small gas streams. As such gas fermentation has positioned itself as a viable alternative for the biological production of chemicals and fuels from recycled carbon with a lower environmental impact than other approaches. Acetogens are amongst the most promising organisms capable of utilizing CO, CO2/H2 as the sole carbon source and are used by Lanzatech at their commercial gas fermentation facilities around the globe. The current Lanzatech commercial facilities produce ethanol. However, expanding the product spectrum of acetogens is crucial for the widespread adoption of the technology as many aspects of acteogens are poorly understood. We are developing comprehensive systems and synthetic biology toolboxes to create a large-scale systems-level quantification of acetogen genotype-phenotype relationships. To this end, we are using mathematical models to guide the improvement of acetogens through a better understanding C1 metabolism.
Nitrogen is essential for all forms of life with amino acids and derived amines fulfilling diverse functions. There is a growing demand for food and feed amino acids, such as L-glutamate and L-lysine, as well as for specialty amino acids for dedicated applications . Their sustainable production will have to be based on substrates that do not have competing uses as food or feed. Valorization of sidestreams from agri- and aqua-culture as substrates has focused on production of biofuels and carboxylic acids, neglecting the nitrogen present in these sidestreams . As in these biorefineries, valorization of reduced forms of carbon dioxide, such as methanol, is mostly discussed in a carbon-centric way. Methylamine is produced commercially from methanol and ammonium. I will discuss metabolic engineering of bacteria for the production of amino acids and amines from methanol as a carbon source  and of the fermentative routes for bioproduction of N-methylated amino acids by reductive methylamination of 2-oxoacids using methylamine .
 Wendisch VF (2020) Metabolic Engineering 58: 17–34.
 Wendisch VF, Nampoothiri KM, Lee J-H (2022) Frontiers in Microbiology 13: 835131.
 Irla M, Wendisch VF (2022) Microbial Biotechnology 15: 2145–2159.
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The rise of interest in replacing fossil-based production routes for chemicals led to the concept of circular production harnessing CO2. Particularly, liquid C1 fermentation substrates, i.e. methanol or formic acid, gained attention. These substrates are efficiently utilized by methylotrophic microbes and provide advantages in comparison to gas fermentation in terms of mass transfer within the aqueous phase. Moreover, methanol can be directly produced using industrial synthesis gas or even green synthesis gas, a mixture of CO2 and CO with green hydrogen. Consequently, the microbial utilization of CO2-based methanol paves the road to close the carbon cycle in industrial biotechnological production. We grasp the coupling of chemical methanol synthesis from synthesis gas with fermentation as a new process concept termed “Power-to-X-to-Y”.
Here we present an example of the Power-to-X-to-Y concept within the framework of the Fraunhofer EVOBIO-Demo project. In particular, the methanol-based production of the industrial-relevant chemical glycolic acid using proprietary engineered strains of Methylorubrum extorquens is demonstrated. Initially, metabolic modelling was applied to evaluate the methylotrophic production of glycolic acid using M. extorquens. Flux Balance Analysis and Elementary Mode analysis predicted increased potential of this strain to convert the serine cycle intermediate glyoxylate to the target product. A first producer strain was obtained by overexpression screening of various heterologous glyoxylate reductases. It is shown that functional glyoxylate reductase overexpression leads to significant titers of the organic acid, even using methanol derived from synthesis gas. In addition, it was found that the successful glycolic acid formation is accompanied with overproduction of lactic acid opening the door to a CO2-derived poly(lactate-co-glycolate) route. Next, metabolic modelling and literature investigations suggested that overexpression of ethylmalonyl-CoA mutase (ECM) of the ethylmalonyl-CoA pathway is beneficial to increase the glyoxylate pool for precursor supply. Finally, it was evaluated in vivo if ECM overexpression unlocks efficient product formation.
The Green Deal of the EC sets the strategy and boundary conditions to reach a climate neutral and circular economy by 2050.
Our societal system uses chemicals and materials based on inorganics and organics. The last ones do have a very high carbon content nowadays mostly based on fossil-carbon. In order to develop a sustainable economy it will be necessary to stay away from fossil-carbon and to move to the so called ‘renewable carbon’ which means carbon from CO2, biomass or recycling. Energy should come from renewable sources all generating green electrons and the intermediate H2.
The bioeconomy generates biomass as a carbon neutral source and provides processes with high specificity operational at low temperatures. At the level of resource the limitation is availability and processes are quite diluted.
The availability of biomass can be solved if i) only very limited use of biomass as energy source is regulated. This means biomass residues and wastes that are too difficult to be re-used or recycled, and ii) if the biobased chemicals/materials will enter a recycling system. Recycling can only be done at the expense of some waste which easily is between 20 and 25% (residues that can be used as energy source and go in an end of life system). The recycling asks for 20-25% addition of virgin material. By adding every year new virgin biomass in the recycle system slowly fossil-based materials will be phased out and on a long term the carbon-based material cycle will run on bio-based carbon (and of course also CO2-based carbon).
Bio-based developments of chemicals and materials will become successful if they are outstanding in their performance and safety. They will create impact at the climate level if they not only base on a climate neutral process, but on a system of carbon sinks.
The microbial production of succinic acid (SA) from renewable carbon sources via the reverse TCA (rTCA) pathway is a process potentially accompanied by net-fixation of carbon dioxide (CO2). Among carbon sources, glycerol is particularly attractive since it allows a nearly twofold higher CO2-fixation yield compared to sugars. The current study aimed at improving the flux into the rTCA pathway accompanied by a higher CO2-fixation and SA yield. By changing the design of the expression cassettes for the rTCA pathway, overexpressing PYC2, and adding CaCO3 to the batch fermentations, an SA yield on glycerol of 0.63 Cmol Cmol-1 was achieved (i.e. 47.1% of the theoretical maximum). The modifications in this 2nd-generation SA producer improved the maximum biomass-specific glycerol consumption rate by a factor of nearly four compared to the isogenic baseline strain solely equipped with the dihydroxyacetone (DHA) pathway for glycerol catabolism. Cultivation conditions which directly or indirectly increased the concentration of bicarbonate, led to an accumulation of malate in addition to the predominant product SA (ca. 0.1 Cmol Cmol 1 at the time point when SA yield was highest). Off-gas analysis in controlled bioreactors with CO2-enriched gas-phase indicated that CO2 was fixed during the SA production phase. The data strongly suggest that a major part of dicarboxylic acids in our 2nd-generation SA-producer was formed via the rTCA pathway enabling a net fixation of CO2. The greatly increased capacity of the rTCA pathway obviously allowed successful competition with other pathways for the common precursor pyruvate. The overexpression of PYC2 and the increased availability of bicarbonate, the co-substrate for the PYC reaction, further strengthened this capacity. The achievements are encouraging to invest in future efforts establishing a process for SA production from (crude) glycerol and CO2.
In today’s growing efforts to limit global warming, action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the transport sector, is inevitable. Cellulosic ethanol, an advanced biofuel, presents a low-emission, carbon-neutral solution. In many countries around the world legislation already recognizes advanced biofuels to play an important role in decarbonizing the transport sector.
Clariant’s sunliquid® process is a highly innovative and sustainable technology to produce cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues such as cereal straw, corn stover, or sugarcane bagasse. The cellulosic ethanol produced can be used as a drop-in solution for fuel blending and offers further downstream application opportunities into sustainable aviation fuel and bio-based chemicals.
Since 2012, Clariant has been operating its pre-commercial sunliquid® plant in Straubing, Germany and has started production at its first full-scale commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in southwestern Romania in June 2022. The flagship plant will process approx. 250,000 tons of straw to produce approx. 50,000 tons of cellulosic ethanol per annum and represents an important step for the commercial deployment of the sunliquid® technology, supporting Clariant’s licensing business strategy.
The process is energy self-sufficient as it requires no fossil-based energy sources. It obtains its energy from the combustion of residual flows, mainly lignin, that remains after extracting the cellulose from the lignocellulose. As a result, the emission profile is considerably better than for conventional bioethanol production. The bioethanol produced by the sunliquid® technology process helps decarbonize the transport sector by providing up to 95% CO2 savings compared to fossil fuel, and by as much as 120% if carbon capture is considered and used as part of the production process.
Clariant licenses its sunliquid® technology platform globally.
Industrial biotechnology is an important pillar of the circular and sustainable economy with the aim of converting biogenic resources into chemicals and fuels. The established production host C. glutamicum is ideally suited for the conversion of the non-food substrate acetate, as it exhibits high substrate uptake rates and tolerates high concentrations of it (Kiefer et al., 2021). Here, we engineered C. glutamicum for efficient conversion of acetate to itaconic acid - an unsaturated dicarboxylic acid of industrial and medical interest. To introduce itaconic acid production, an optimized version of the cis-aconitate decarboxylase was expressed from a pEKEx2 vector (Otten et al., 2015) in C. glutamicum ATCC13032. The generated strains were cultured in CGXII minimal medium supplemented with 20 g acetate L-1 under nitrogen limitation (C:N ratio of 40:1). After 72 h, a final titer of 0.32 ± 0.09 g itaconic acid L-1 was detected in the culture supernatant (YP/S of 8 ± 2 mmol mol-1). Reduction of isocitrate dehydrogenase activity, deletion of the global regulator of acetate metabolism RamB, and deletion of glutamate dehydrogenase increased the final titers to 3.43 ± 0.59 g of itaconic acid L-1 (YP/S of 81 ± 9 mmol mol-1). Final titers reached with C. glutamicum ΔramB Δgdh IDHR453C (pEKEx2-malEcadopt) were further increased to 5.01 ± 0.67 g of itaconic acid L-1 (YP/S of 116 ± 15 mmol mol-1) by lowering the cultivation temperature from 30 °C to 25 °C. These values correspond to 34% of the theoretical maximum and are the highest yields and titers of itaconic acid produced from acetate in shaking-flask cultures reported so far.
From many stakeholders in politics and industry, biotechnology is considered to be a key technology that can make a significant contribution to transforming the current economy into a circular bioeconomy. BRAIN Biotech supports that position and over the last 15 years has established a broad range of biotechnological solutions with have the potential to upcycle industrial side streams.
How exactly does it work? BRAIN together with its industry partners found the most creative microorganisms managing that job very well. Some of these microorganisms can use CO2 from industrial point sources to convert it into renewable building blocks, others are able to recover valuable metals from e-waste or help to recycle lithium-ion batteries – biotechnology with the use of these microorganisms can help to promote a sustainable economy.
Where do we stand in that transformation process? Where will we find ourselves in 10 years from now? A potential path forward but also current challenges will be discussed. Visions to get to a circular economy in place through transforming industrial processes will be shared.
Electrosynthesis and in detail the technology ESy-Screening, provided by ESy-Labs, will be the future key technology for the production of high value fine and specialty chemicals as well as pharmaceutical compounds and the recycling of inorganic waste streams or battery materials. The creation of value with electrosynthesis is performed through the application of electricity instead of the use of expensive, toxic and stoichiometric reagents. These outstanding advantages position electrosynthesis as a game changer in chemical conversion and helps to reduce or completely avoid chemical waste, the application of critical raw materials, and safety issues. Especially the diverse combination of organic as well as inorganic electrosynthesis, accounts also for the future combination with biotechnology at ESy-Labs.
In combination with ESy-Screening, Design of experiment (DoE) is a powerful statistical tool in establishing improved chemical processes. An optimization and scale-up of the electrochemical reduction of L-cystine to L-cysteine is presented. Subsequent to an electrode screening of 17 metals and alloys in divided batch-type cells, the lead electrode was selected for a systematic optimization in flow cells with a geometric cathodic surface area ranging from 10 to 100 cm2.
Furthermore, scale-up to industrial scale is an essential bridge to technical aplication. Here, the development of ESy-Zinc for the recycling of zinc containing industrial waste will be presented.
Realizing the bioeconomy as a sustainable bio-based economy requires not only national and European but also international initiatives. Global cooperation is needed to achieve the objectives set out for establishing the bioeconomy. This is the purpose of the BMBF-Bioeconomy International funding activity. Funding will be provided for research and development projects in close cooperation with relevant foreign partners on core issues of the bioeconomy in order to strengthen international collaborations and to establish active, sustainable partnerships.
The Bavarian Bioeconomy Strategy Future.Bioeconomy.Bavaria addresses all relevant players: society, administration and politics, agriculture and forestry, industry and science. We want to actively develop the transformation with the implementation of fifty measures. The success of the bioeconomy critically depends on society’s acceptance of these measures. For this reason, we must integrate all citizens and provide education about the benefits of the bioeconomy, e.g. by establishing targeted educational offers and fostering an intensive public discourse. At the same time, policy-makers and administration are to initiate necessary changes for the amendment of laws and ordinances and take on a role model function with respect to usage and consideration for climate and environmentally friendly products. Agriculture and forestry as producers of renewable resources are thereby strengthened offering business and industry an opportunity to become a driver of innovation within the bioeconomy. Science and research form the basis for new insights and for a science-based bioeconomy. Interdisciplinary cooperation and improved communication promote the transfer of new insights for practical application.
Consequently, the strategy was developed as an open and constructive process with the integration of all relevant players. We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to all workshop participants, all surveyed experts, the involved ministries and the clusters and especially the Bioeconomy Council Bavaria with its outstanding level of expertise.
Future.Bioeconomy.Bavaria is the guiding principle for the actions we will take in the future.
Straubing, branding as the region of renewable resources, is considered the center of the bioeconomy in Bavaria. More than 50 players from agriculture and forestry, industry, the public sector, science and research along bioeconomic value chains are active here. Corporate actors that can be assigned to the bioeconomy are mainly working in the fields of industrial biotechnology, renewable fuels, food and feed industry, and the primary sectors of agriculture and forestry.
In this presentation, from a public business development point of view, Straubing serves as an example of how regional, geo-economical characteristics and political decisions can be harnessed to develop an ecosystem for the biobased economy. The first steps of this development were taken almost two decades ago, making Straubing one of the first bioeconomy hubs in Germany.
Public and private investments and activities implemented along the bioeconomy’s innovation and value chains are contributing to the regional ecosystem and can also have a significant effect on the economic transformation towards a more sustainable, biobased economy beyond the region. This effect can both result from a transfer of lessons learnt to other emerging bioeconomy regions and from products, processes and knowledge developed in the region itself. Important future building blocks that will drive this development include the continued strengthening of excellent education and research, investing in accessible scaling and demonstration infrastructure as well as focusing on start-ups, spin-offs and supporting regional SMEs in their quest towards sustainability.
As an example of the latest activities, infrastructure investments within the Straubing ecosystem such as the BioCampus MultiPilot, an open-access, multi-purpose demonstration plant for industrial biotech process upscaling are presented. Attention will also be put on the challenges faced and an outlook into the biobased future which might be rooted in regional hubs but has to function globally is given.
Following the decision of the German government to phase-out coal power by 2038, in the coming years the lignite mining region the Rheinische Revier, Europe’s largest interconnected lignite mining area, will undergo significant transformative change. To mitigate the impacts of structural change, the objective is to turn the region into a model region for a sustainable bioeconomy. This process creates a unique opportunity for society as it will provide rare insights into the way such transformation processes work. In addition, valuable knowledge for the future will be gained.
To guide the success of this transformation, as part of the BioSC-project Transform2Bio, a comprehensive monitoring system was developed that captures crucial aspects related to the transition and considers regional specificities along with stakeholder perspectives. Without respective indicator systems as a reliable source of region-specific information, decision-makers lack a central component for making forward-looking and comprehensible decisions and developing associated policy options. The monitoring system developed for this study combines elements of national sustainability strategies and links these with the key principles of a sustainable bioeconomy.
To enhance comparability between similar transformation initiatives, the established Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) and related narratives serve as a basis for the subsequent quantification of regional transformation pathways (RTPs). The monitoring system rooted in the sustainability strategy ensures data availability and increases the legitimacy of potential decisions based upon it. The connection to the SSPs strengthens transparency and allows researchers and policy-makers to relate to the underlying main assumptions.
The bioeconomy together with the circular economy are the most recent strategies toward sustainable development. In this context, many industrial sectors are considering the design of new products based on this concept. New materials and designs have been considered aiming to enhance the sustainability of derived products. Most of the automotive corporations are focused nowadays in reducing their demand for energy and promoting renewable raw materials, cycling products under the concept of cradle to cradle. Vehicle manufacture, use, and disposal are very intense in terms of materials and supply demands, and in most cases rely on non-renewable resources. Therefore, the use of the circular economy approach can help to reduce the automotive industry impact over the environment. This paper discusses the historical aspects of the bioeconomy and circular economy, including biofuels, natural polymers, and the use of renewable resources. The concept of balancing energy and materials can be a key aspect in the decision for the future of our mobility: electrical and hybrid cars, internal combustion, renewable fuel, low carbon footprint, etc. In this scenario the bioeconomy and the circular economy act together, although at different levels, aiming to improve the sustainable mobility in production, use and end of life vehicles (recycling and final disposal). Finally, the circular bioeconomy means the replacement of non-biogenic resources, or fossil-based, by renewable materials, including in this case the natural polymers, biopolymers, biomasses, renewable energy and green feedstocks, which will result in a better transition to a global bioeconomy.
Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be among the most severely affected continents by climate change in the coming decades. The construction industry, as one of the continent's largest employers, is considered very resource intensive and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a result, increasing the use of renewable resources in construction, particularly bioenergy and low carbon construction materials, could make the built environment more sustainable and a part of the bioeconomy. Nonetheless, there has been little attention paid to the potential of bioenergy as a by-product of bioeconomy for combating GHG emissions associated with construction activities. The aim of this keynote address is to present the current state of bioeconomy adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as to interrogate the role of bioeconomy in promoting bioenergy for combating climate change in the built environment. Bioeconomies face enormous challenges, ranging from policy and regulation-related, infrastructural-related, technology-related, and institutional-related issues to the development of new business models and the production of new biomaterials and bioenergy in a sustainable and cost-effective manner for the built environment. However, opportunities exist in bioeconomies for the production and use of modern bioenergy to help reduce GHG emissions, promote energy security, diversify energy resources, and contribute to a sustainable built environment. The main drivers and enabling environment for promoting bioeconomy adoption for climate action within the built environment are proposed. This keynote address will contribute to the bioeconomy discourse by assisting in the achievement of SDGs 7, 11 and 12. Additionally, it will help policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa to develop and implement effective policies to guide the implementation of bioeconomy in the built environment.
The bioeconomy is based on the valorization of biomass. Since thousands of years biomass has been and is still extensively used as a fuel to produce heat. In the near future, biomass shall substitute fossil carbon as a renewable source of valuable chemical compounds for sectors such as the chemical industry in various applications. Bioeconomy concepts such as the biorefinery integrate processes to convert biomass into valuable products. Its implementation follows development stages from the laboratory to the scale-up. In order to master the Valley of Death, concepts must be evaluated and assessed by applying advanced interdisciplinary methods. Classical methods such as the economic analysis are combined with life cycle assessment, stakeholder analysis and comprehensive process simulation as well as mathematical programming models to obtain insights into its complex performance. Only in the case of a sufficient overall performance innovative biomass valorization concepts thrive. Several examples exist that started from a basic idea and grew through research to become first-of-its-kind concepts. This talk will provide a few examples of successfully implemented bioeconomy concepts and aggregate success factors for the implementation of concepts to come.
The green transition includes the development of new synthetic routes for the production of chemicals (from pharmaceuticals to commodities). One interesting route is using catalysis, which has the potential to drive new sustainable production processes. In particular the opportunity is opened for the use of effective chemical processes based on renewable (and potentially sustainable) raw materials. Catalysts can be classified into several categories and the use of heterogeneous catalysts, fermentative growing cells and biocatalysts (non-growing cells or isolated enzymes) each have different roles to play [1,2]. Nevertheless some technical hurdles still need to be overcome, not least in the development of new processes where a combination of technologies are required and therefore multidisciplinary approaches become essential. In this lecture I will outline some of the options, metrics used for assessment of new bioprocess  and discuss the role of different technologies.
 Woodley, J.M. 2022. Ensuring the sustainability of biocatalysis. ChemSusChem 15, e202102683.
 Woodley, J.M. 2022. New horizons for biocatalytic science. Frontiers in Catalysis. 2, 883161.
 Meissner, M.P. and Woodley, J.M. 2022. Biocatalyst metrics to guide protein engineering and bioprocess development. Nature Catal. 5, 2-4.
A desired bioeconomy is a prerequisite for a carbon-neutral or even slightly carbon-negative society. While the advanced production processes of industrial biotechnology are based on glucose from starch and sucrose, the challenge of land use and competition with the food industry are coming into focus. This is especially true for the economic production of low-cost bulk chemicals or biofuels. As the most reduced form of carbon, methane is not only a potent climate gas, but can also serve as an excellent energy and carbon source for methane-based fermentations.
However, in recent decades, various research groups have failed to produce the crucial enzymes for methane conversion in industrial relevant platform organisms . We demonstrated for the first time the heterologous production of catalytically active soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO) from the marine Methylomonas methanica MC09 in Escherichia coli [2,3]. Key to this was the co-synthesis of the chaperonin GroES/EL, which bears great similarity to one of the proteins within the sMMO operon. For comprehensive characterization by biochemical and spectroscopic techniques, we purified the sMMO by affinity chromatography. Iron determination, electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, photometric assays, and immunoblotting in native gel revealed the incorporation of the non-heme di-iron center and the formation of homodimers of the active sMMO [2,3].
Future development of methane-converting platform organisms and their biotechnological applications are discussed.
(1) C.W. Koo, A.C. Rosenzweig, Biochemistry of aerobic biological methane oxidation Chem. Soc. 2021, 50, 3424–3436
(2) E. Lettau, D. Zill, M.Späth, C.Lorent, P.K.Singh, L. Lauterbach, Catalytic and spectroscopic properties of the halotolerant soluble methane monooxygenase reductase from Methylomonas methanica MC09, ChemBioChem 2022, 23, e2021005
(3) D. Zill, E. Lettau, C. Lorent, F. Seifert, P.K. Singh, L. Lauterbach. Crucial role of the chaperonin GroES/EL for heterologous production of the soluble methane monooxygenase from Methylomonas methanica MC09 ChemBioChem 2022, 23, e202200195
Substantial recent progress in biocatalysis, metabolic engineering and the reading and writing of DNA open up a plethora of new possibilities to construct microbes for sustainable bioprocesses. While we are only seeing the onset of these technological developments, it is not presumptuous to predict that they will critically shape the inevitably required transition towards a circular, bio-based economy. In my talk, I will share some of our previous and planned contributions to this exciting endeavor.
To this end, my group develops enzymes with catalytic features not found amongst natural biological systems. For instance, our efforts on the assembly and directed evolution of artificial metalloenzymes in the periplasm of the bacterium Escherichia coli are targeted towards expanding the available biocatalytic repertoire with transition-metal catalyzed reactions(1-3). Most notably, we have recently developed artificial, ruthenium-containing enzymes for olefin metathesis, a metal-catalyzed reaction mechanism that features scission and regeneration of carbon-carbon double bonds using olefins as starting material(2,3). Relying on high-throughput screening and metabolic selection, we systematically engineer such hybrid biocatalysts for a variety of non-natural reactions by directed evolution. Additionally, we capitalize on the obtained data to develop in silico models that facilitate the forward design of new enzyme variants with user-defined properties while drastically reducing the associated experimental screening effort(3). Furthermore, we develop molecular tools and computational models to rationally integrate such “new parts” into higher-order systems such as metabolic pathways and production strains(4,5).
The overarching goal of our work is the development of a versatile molecular and methodological toolbox for the streamlined metabolic engineering of microbial cell factories with new-to-nature capabilities.
(1) Jeschek, Panke, Ward. Trends Biotechnol., 36:60-72 (2018).
(2) Jeschek et al. Nature 537:661-665 (2016).
(3) Vornholt et al. Sci. Adv. 7:eabe4208 (2021).
(4) Jeschek, Gerngross, Panke. Nat. Commun. 7:11163 (2016).
(5) Höllerer et al. Nat. Commun. 11:3551 (2020).
We have developed a novel biosensor platform for the detection of plant nutrients, like nitrate and phosphate directly on the field.
From a small drop of plant sap we can determine the nutrient concentration with with laboratory precision.
With our sensor we determine what the plants need and guide fertilizer application. In combination with remote sensing we can provide spatially resolved fertilizer application maps.
Our system has the potential to reduce the fertilizer input thereby reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions of fertilization by up to 20%.
Here I will present the biotechnological basis of our system and the transfer activities to make our technology available to farmers.
The bioeconomy requires sustainable bioproduction systems aligned with the circular economy and the Sustainable Development Goals. Compost represents an important input for bioproduction, but the use of diverse compost types causes uncertain outcomes, and compost use remains at the fringes of modern agriculture. We performed a global meta-analysis with over 2,000 observations to determine whether a Precision Compost Strategy (PCS) that aligns suitable composts and application methods with target crops and growth environments can advance sustainable bioproduction. Eleven key predictors of compost (carbon-to-nutrient ratios, pH, electric conductivity), management (nitrogen supply) and biophysical settings (crop, soil texture, soil organic carbon, pH, temperature, rainfall) determined 80% of the effects on crop yield, SOC, and nitrous oxide emissions. The benefits of a PCS are more pronounced in drier and warmer climates and soils with acidic pH and sandy or clay texture, achieving up to 40% higher yields than conventional practices. We estimate that a global PCS can increase the production of major cereal crops by 96.3 Tg annually, which is 4% of current global production. It also has the technological potential to restore 19.5 Pg carbon in cropland topsoil (0-20cm), equivalent to 26.5% of current topsoil carbon stocks. Together, this points to a central role of PCS in the bioeconomy enabled by sustainable high-production systems and contributing to climate change mitigation.
Climate change is one of the most discussed topics in our society at the moment. It is a common understanding, that CO2 emissions contribute significantly to global warming. Therefore many different approaches are needed to limit or even reduce these emissions. In order to meet this trend, we have to find solutions, efficiently using our resources and at the same time reducing CO2 emissions. In our present world the natural photosynthesis is a crucial factor, generating compounds from CO2 and sunlight and therefore reducing CO2 in our atmosphere. The Rheticus project mimics the natural photosynthesis designing an artificial photosynthesis system.
The energy efficiency and water consumption of the natural photosynthesis are limiting factors. Artificial photosynthesis improves this energy efficiency and water consumption.
Our concept of an artificial photosynthesis is based on the combination of electrolysis and biocatalysis. By this means bulk chemicals as well as specialties are accessible. Therefore this concept represents an additional interesting power to chemicals approach to preserve our current living standard in a sustainable manner.
The Chemcial industry has a growing interest and demand for Chemicals based on bio or renewable sources with a low CO2 footprint. VERBIO Vereinigte BioEnergie AG in cooperation with its subsidiary XiMo Hungary kft, has developed a process and a unique new catalyst system to produce methyl-9-decenoate (9DAME), 1-decene and C18 diacids derivatives from renewable rapeseed methyl ester by olefin metathesis / ethenolysis, commercializing a new platform for renewable specialty chemicals.
The new process VerBioChem, provides access to functionalized and unfunctionalized medium chain C10 alpha olefins in an environmentally friendly and economically attractive way from readily available renewable rapeseed methyl ester. Furthermore, the metathesis platform can be used to produce a number of useful C18 diacids e.g. Dimethyl-9-octadecenedioate (9ODDAME) or Dimethyl octadecanediaote by homocross-metathesis as new biobased building blocks for the chemical and especially the polymer industry.
Verbio will construct a first-of-its-kind commercial scale ethenolysis and catalyst production plant in Germany and Hungary respectively. In a first step, Verbio will invest in a ethenolysis plant with a nominal capacity 50-60 ktpa of products. The investment will provide Verbio’s customers access to biobased specialty chemicals with a low CO2 footprint at commercial scale by 2024/25. The catalyst production plant of XiMo Hungary kft will have a capacity of 10-12 tpa and will provide access to Schrock type metathesis catalysts for Verbio as well as for external customers.
Commercial polyamides that are partly or fully derived from renewable resources are one of the few examples for biopolymers that can compete with their fossil-based counterparts in the group of engineering plastics. A good example is PA11, which is produced from castor beans after several processing steps and subsequent chemical conversions. PA11 contains eleven methylene groups between the name-giving amide groups, whereas the fossil-based PA6 and PA12 contain six and 12 methylene groups, respectively. In all cases, these hydrocarbon backbones are linear, bearing no substituents or ring structures, thus offering only minor differences in their fundamental properties and, consequently, applications. To further extend the structural variety of polyamides and explore new sustainable raw materials for their precursors, the utilization of industrial side streams has become a focus of research. Monoterpenes are side products that can be isolated during industrial wood processing or juice production. They are very well suited as precursors for bio-based polyamides with novel structures and properties. The Fraunhofer IGB Straubing branch has investigated several polyamide monomers derived from monoterpenes, resulting in the development of the 100% bio-based polyamides Caramid-S® and Caramid-R®. These polyamides are both accessible from the monoterpene 3-carene that is converted to the monomers 3S-caranlactam and 3R-caranlactam in a scalable four-step synthesis. Both polyamides show a high glass transition temperature (Tg) of over 110 °C. While Caramid-S® is opaque and semi-crystalline and melts at a temperature as high as 290 °C, Caramid-R® is transparent and amorphous. The natural chirality of 3-carene is maintained during the polymer synthesis, which leads to chiral polyamides that can potentially be utilized for growth control of microorganisms. Another distinction to commercial bio-based polyamides is the possibility to produce Caramid-S® and Caramid-R® by anionic ring-opening polymerization, potentially leading to cast polyamides with outstanding molecular weight and mechanical properties.
Braskem’s strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and the successful case of a bio-based process development – “I’m green” the first plastic from a renewable source produced on an industrial scale in the world, a polyethylene that uses sugarcane as its raw material.
I introduce three emblematic cases associated with our recent work that highlight the great possibilities of circularity in the bioeconomy based on forest biomass and residuals. First, I discuss a processing route that transforms low-value wood (residual, damaged, decayed, disposed or fractured) into lightweight and strong structural materials. The process involves delignification, combined with partial dissolution and regeneration, to expose cellulose fibrils originally present in the cell walls. The latter form strong hydrogen bonding networks at interphases, leading to a ‘healed’ wood with a mechanical strength that exceeds that of typical metals and commercial laminated wood. Moreover, recyclability as well as excellent resistance against organic solvents are demonstrated, providing a promising valorization and sustainability pathway for low-value wood (1). Following similar approaches, I next discuss an option for valorization of biomass, in this case, blueberries pruning residuals and food waste and losses, sourced from agro-forestry operations that can be used to produce added-value products, including platform chemicals and value-added materials (2-3). Along such examples, I briefly show the premise of new routes for the production of fibrillated cellulose (4-5). Finally, I given an example of a facile strategy to synthesize all-green SUPs based on chitin nanofibers . The latter are demonstrated for their facile recyclability and biodegradability in natural environments, addressing the limitations of circularity and end of life of non-renewable products (6). Given the low-cost of the raw materials, their natural micro-structural design and self-adhesion, this presentations show fully sustainable alternatives to products based on nonrenewable carbon.
Alka(e)nes are excellent hydrocarbon candidates that can be directly used as drop-in biofuels, as they have similar properties to those of current petroleum-based fuels, being energy-dense biofuels with no oxygen in their composition. The usage of drop-in biofuels can decarbonize the aviation and marine transport sectors, in which electrification is a challenging alternative. Moreover, alkenes (olefins) also represent an important industrially building block to produce ethylene, propylene, normal butylene, and isobutylene, which have an end-use in plastics, artificial rubber, solvents, and resins. After the discovery of the first P450 CYP152 OleTJE in Rude et al., (2011), reported with its unique property of decarboxylating fatty acids (FA), by using hydrogen peroxide as a cofactor and producing 1-alkenes as the main product, the scientific and technological interest in this family of enzymes vastly increased. Aiming at exploring new decarboxylase representatives within CYP152 members, phylogenetic analyses were performed, including only protein sequences in which amino acids considered important for the fatty acid decarboxylation activity are conserved. The present work presents a new decarboxylase (OleTDRN) with low similarity with OleTJE (32%), its biochemical characterization, and the structure elucidation. Besides that, structure-guided mutations were performed and, according to the functional characterizations, it was observed that some mutations presented different specificity and chemoselectivity by varying the chain-length of FA substrates from 12 to 20 carbons. These results are extremely interesting from a biotechnological perspective as those characteristics could diversify the applications and contribute to better design new enzymes to produce alkenes. Since the knowledge on intriguing molecular mechanisms involved in the decarboxylation preferential from OleTJE is elusive, the elucidation of the OleTDRN structure and its functional characterization provide new information on the CYP152 family. This work also demonstrates the potential applicability of this versatile decarboxylation system for biological routes aiming at the biosynthesis of alkenes.