Bioprospecting & Synthetic Biology
An essential feature of our nature is its enormous biodiversity. Among the countless biomolecules enzymes protrude out yet. As biocatalysts they control all vital processes and solve specific tasks perfectly; similar to highly specialized tools. Microorganisms are specialists, too, and can achieve amazing things through interaction with various cell types. For example certain microbial communities support plants during growth or in the defense of pests.
Using bioprospecting, acib filters out the knowledge about benefits of biological systems that were developed by nature. Based on this, acib researchers define which basic requirements must be met in order to realize a biotechnological process. Finally acib uses new biological systems for environmentally friendly practices.
Acib researchers analyze databases with millions of sequences and protein data. A powerful tool in the search for bioactivity and new synthetic routes is the web-based “Catalophor system”, which was developed at acib. The results of the search are blueprints for proteins, which are then engineered as biocatalysts for maximum performance.
acib follows several ways to develop new biocatalysts. One is working with Cupines, comparatively small and still little explored proteins that allow a broad range of functionalities.
Cupine proteins are simply constructed, but they can accomplish a wide range of services. Through the incorporation of non-natural metals in the active site of these proteins, acib wants to create different biocatalytic properties and expand the application range for the chemical industry.
Another research focus at acib is synthetic biology. This approach extends evolution as researchers develop new microbial cells or protein molecules that can solve specific tasks for the chemical or pharmaceutical industry perfectly.
Our vision is to combine bioprospecting and whole cell systems development with synthetic biology; including protein engineering strategies. A major long-term goal are innovative enzymes based on metal-catalysis. Fundamental research targets natural protein scaffolds in order to change their metal binding behavior and thus allows to introduce non-natural metals. An industrial goal in enzyme development is to create new and engineered whole cell biocatalysts for specific enzymatic reactions. Besides exploring the biodiversity for such enzyme systems, developing suitable engineering strategies is a highly challenging task due to the complexity of these enzyme systems.
acib uses the latest methodology and strategies for screening the natural biodiversity for new interesting enzymes, novel enzyme classes, metabolic capabilities and bio-functionalities. acib’s proprietary technologies in structure based data mining and new algorithms for sequence-based computational biology are extended by implementing annotated cloud strategies. This allows more precise annotation of existing data library entries and thus the identification of new functionalities in so far not clearly annotated sequences.
The investigation of plant microbiome functions on both community and single strain level will result in concepts for a new generation of bio-based plant protection products. Novel chassis strains for biotransformations and novel proteins by incorporation of noncanonical amino acids (NCAAs) are a priority of acib’s synthetic biology efforts. In order to gain access to the desired NCAAs for in vivo incorporation, efficient chassis strains will be generated and equipped with engineered cascade reactions or entire metabolic pathways including the introduction of specifically engineered enzymes to furnish them with the ability to biosynthesize NCAAs and their intermediates from simple precursors. The introduction of specifically engineered enzymes into the cascades and pathways will lead to the desired end products.