The Next Generation of Biotechnological Processes


Professor Ulrich Schwaneberg, head of the Institute of Biotechnology at RWTH Aachen University, has received the research award “Next Generation of Biotechnological Processes – Biotechnology 2020+.” The research prize, which is awarded by the Federal Ministry of Ministry of Education and Research, is worth 1.7 million Euros.


Schwaneberg was presented with the award for his development of a technology platform which makes it possible to utilize production organisms for the generation of substances in organic solvents. The project is titled “Selective P450 and Whole-Cell Hybrid Catalyst Systems in Synthetic Biofilms.” With collaborative input from the Microgels and Hybrid Catalyst working groups led by Professors Andrij Pich and Jun Okuda, respectively, the project uses synthetic biofilms in order to stabilize production organisms for catalysis in organic solvents.

Taking its cue from nature, the project makes use of nanogels, which are attached to the cells to produce artificial biofilms. These films protect the cells against organic solvents without strongly affecting the material flow. The nanogels are attached to the bacteria surfaces with the help of so-called anchor peptides, in this case E. coli bacteria.

Schwaneberg’s research project facilitates innovative processes, in particular for chemical bonds that are almost insoluble in water, such as steroids or aromatic and cyclical hydrocarbons, which are used in the production of polymers, fragrances, and early-stage pharmaceuticals.

Making Scientific Breakthroughs Visible

By awarding the research award, the Federal Ministry wants to make visible scientific breakthroughs that enable a new generation of biotechnological processes. The prize is awarded in recognition of outstanding research results achieved at universities, research institutions, or companies. The prize money shall help to secure and expand the expertise gained as well as to use it for the development of new methodologies.