Biological systems that could produce insulin out of greenhouse gas – this is one of the goals of the new €11.5M Synthetic Biology programme, at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

munich_tum_synbio_biocatalysis_structuralThe Technical University of Munich (TUM) has many research highlights, including CAR-T research with impressive results.

It has recently created the TUM School of Bioengineering (MSB), which will now have an important addition – a new programme in Synthetic Biology.

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SynBio is an exciting field, integrating research in biochemistry, bioinformatics, catalysis and industrial Biotech (here is a handy guide). It has been used to produce expensive fine chemicals, antioxidants and even innovative materials.

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New Catalysis Research Center, part of TUM’s investment in industrial biotech. (Credit: Andreas Heddergott / TUM)

The launch of the programme was helped by the €11.5M donation of Werner Siemens Foundation (Switzerland), which supports innovative technological and scientific projects at universities.

This new money will be used to upgrade existing laboratories, as well as build a specialized SynBio laboratory for students. TUM already had its famous algae facility for aviation fuel.

Focus of research will include the simulation of biological systems- such as a photosynthetic system to produce insulin. This could make this important therapeutic protein just with light and carbon dioxide.

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Fig. 1: Strategies of protein engineering for improved enzymes and biocatalysis.

Another goal has been a holy grail of Biochemistry for a long time – to understand the relationship between structure and function of enzymes. If achieved, it would pave the way to rationally design new biocatalysts, instead of a random, ‘natural evolution’ approach to enzyme engineering.

TUM has also recently opened a central institute for catalysis research, with the German government chipping in a total of €84.5M. It will lead to the creation of new professorships and house the MuniCat academy-industry alliance.

The Technical University of Munich already had a solid track in Industrial Biotechnology, but it’s investing a lot in new facilities and cutting edge research.


Featured Image Credit: Interior of the Faculty Building, TUM (CC 3.0 TobiasK)
Figure 1 Credit: Wang et al. (2014) Synthetic Biology and Metabolic Engineering for Marine Carotenoids: New Opportunities and Future Prospects. Marine Drugs (doi: 10.3390/md12094810)

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