It’s already been a year since the acib science blog was officially launched. Birthdays are a good time to reflect, and the last year have given us much to reflect on! When the acib blog was still in its infancy, Katrin Weinhandl, former chief editor and one of the initiators of this project, played a decisive role by setting up a well thought-through editorial plan to transform scientific content into understandable posts. After she left the company, she introduced us (Olivia Laggner and Sabrina Mayer-Maschl) to become the new chief editors.
Among global problems, shortage of water resources is considered one of the grand challenges humankind is facing. With growing industries, water consumption and wastewater treatment becomes more problematic. As the large-scale production of biopharmaceuticals increases worldwide, this industry sector has to develop strategies to minimize the environmental footprint as well.
This is the first article in a row of articles about entrepreneurship and financing in life science. They are supposed to spot issues that may come up with starting up a business and structuring the financing and can be used as a hands-on guide through the challenges that may emerge when switching from science to business.
Most of the active components in drugs either are compounds obtained by chemical synthesis or biomolecules produced by microorganisms (often proteins), which are then called biopharmaceuticals. When we talk about biomolecule production it can be separated into two sections: the up- and downstream-process. The main focus of an upstream-process lies on the preparation of the host cells and their fermentation. After a successful production the target protein needs to be separated from impurities. Protein purification – the downstream process – is an important procedure used to produce biomolecules in a highly pure form for the use in human healthcare.
The body of a human adult consists of 1014 or 100 trillion of cells, which have specific tasks to fulfil. As a reaction to biological signals or environmental cues, cells can start to move. Many questions about cell migration still remain unclear. The acib researchers Christian Jungreuthmayer and Jürgen Zanghellini were involved in developing a micro-device, which mechanically induces defined injuries to analyse microfluidic migration and wound healing.
Many bio-plastic bags have no place in the garbage. They dissolve too slowly in oxygen-deficient environments like biogas plants and when incinerated they are a burden to the environment. Enzymes offer a solution to this problem, accelerating degradation and avoid emissions. In the long run, the aim is to reduce plastic mountains and replace conventional packaging by bio-based Polymers.
The contamination of chicken eggs with fipronil led to a Europe-wide outcry in 2017. Although this specific case was not in compliance with current regulations, other treatments of hatching eggs with hazardous substances are still common. Contaminations of the eggshells with potentially animal-pathogenic microorganisms require fumigation with toxic chemicals for efficient breeding. Researchers evaluated an alternative decontamination method that is based on bacterial metabolites and showed that it is as efficient as conventional methods.
Enzymes are the tiny helpers of industrial biotechnology. Despite their microscopic size, they need to be tough and diligent because we want them to catalyze a broad range of reactions, ideally with the speed of light for ever after. In reality, however, many enzymes are like sensitive creatures, who need most careful attention and special treats to get their nicest behavior. Otherwise they might fade away like a tender flower in the blinking sun… and send the biotechnologists into terrible trouble. One strategy to find frugal enzymes is to look at thermophilic organisms. They sometimes harbor a treasure of more stable proteins because they are used to withstand somewhat unfriendly conditions such as high temperatures.
First of all, welcome in 2018 and a happy new year full of interesting success stories of biotech! Hopefully, you had a good time with your family and friends and found some time to relax? Certainly, many of us also enjoyed a colorful fireworks display to get into the new year. But – as we all know – fireworks are causing air pollution.
Plastic – the material of our time – is omnipresent. As the production is steadily increasing, its recycling lags behind. What if enzymes like esterases could make a change? While bringing about a sustainable life style will not get around reducing plastic usage, responsible resource management also necessitates the implementation of circular economy. As for that, the European Union established the Circular Economy Package. It made plastic one of the five priorities to be targeted and calls for novel and improved recycling processes. And, (bio)-chemical recycling using esterases might just be the method to boost our resource efficiency.