acib works at the interface of fundamental and applied research. The intensive networking with our scientific partners enables us to keep at the front line of top-level research and strengthens the knowledge base in the field of industrial biotechnology. The close cooperation with our (co-financing) industry partners guarantees the application oriented research. The acib network is constructed by its funding institutions, the scientific partners currently coming from 53 universities and the approximately 120 industry partners (thereof 53 COMET partners). Partners are collaborating in currently 150 projects (COMET, EU, FFG …).


Medical agents, active ingredients of detergents, cosmetics, color pigments or polymers – all depend on chemical syntheses. Most chemical reactions require a high energy input and ecologically harmful organic solvents. The result of many chemical reactions is a mixture of products from which the desired substance must be separated sophisticatedly. About 90 % of all chemical processes are carried out using a type of catalysis. Here, biocatalysis comes into play – as biocatalysts, enzymes transform chemical syntheses into more ecological and economic processes.
acib uses enzymes or microorganisms in synthetic chemistry and develops biological alternatives to conventional chemical processes. Our procedures are more efficient and environmentally friendly.
Biocatalytic reactions are not only faster – they also require less energy, they are more selective and generate less waste. Overall, such ‘green’ reactions are more cost effective than classical ways of chemical synthesis. To reduce the dependence of the chemical industry from oil as raw material, acib puts increasingly emphasis on renewable carbon sources.
acib combines the latest knowledge on enzyme structures with the knowledge of chemical reaction mechanisms. Based thereon acib scientists develop innovative biocatalytic production processes for important chemical compounds. The main goals of our approach are shorter development times and predictable process results.

acib extends the search for novel reactions to replace inefficient (chemical) methodology towards still unsolved „dream-reactions“: (i) asymmetric hydration of C=C bonds, (ii) enzymatic activation of hydroxy-compounds to replace ecologically problematic Mitsunobu- and Appel-protocols, (iii) biocatalytic, metal-free replacement of the traditional Friedel-Crafts-Acylations, (iv) novel enzymatic C-C, C-S, C-O and C-N bond forming reactions.
Using novel C-sources (carbohydrates, fermentation products) acib scientists focus on „intelligent“, highly functionalized starting materials with added value for synthesis via regio-selective enzymatic functionalization.
acib research intensifies the trend towards the development of multi-enzyme cascade-reactions for the synthesis of complex organic compounds using the opportunities to employ novel chassis cells optimized in cofactor regeneration, energy and precursor generation. Of particular interest are medium-sized metabolites (C8-C14) bearing carbon atoms with varying oxidation states and a broad array of different functional groups.
The incorporation of designed biocatalytic steps into existing fermentation processes at the late stage of the biosynthetic sequence will finally lead to the substitution of tedious chemical tailoring steps and to avoiding isolation of sensitive intermediates.




Kurt Faber

Kurt Faber

Function: Head of the research field Biocatalytic Synthesis

Phone: +43 316 380 5332



Silvia Glück

Function: Senior Scientist


Polymers are ubiquitous in our world – in clothings, as plastics in cars, in electronic goods, packages and much more. Most polymers and plastics are currently secondary products of the petroleum industry. Dwindling resources and problems with not satisfying recycling methods make it necessary to think of alternatives.
acib explores the interaction between enzymes or microorganisms and plastics or biopolymers. The knowledge of this interaction allows us to develop new polymers and plastics that are biodegradable, that contain components made from renewable resources or with surfaces that have special properties.
Thus, a color reaction achieved by the installation of markers in the surface of bandage material can show, if a wound is infected under the bandage. A major risk factor in the clinical field is turned off in this way.
With the help of enzymes acib scientists control the release of certain substances from a polymer. We can also change the polymers themselves and provide them special properties. For example, wood is extremely water repellent after an enzymatic treatment. This makes wood for the first time usable as a material for working tops and floors in areas that require a high level of sterility, for example in the clinical environment.
The possible applications of strategies around enzymes, microorganisms and polymers developed by acib are enormous. They range from applications in agriculture to new approaches in environmental engineering; for example in biohydrometallurgy which deals with recovering valuable metals from waste streams.

acib’s thematic focus lies on the adaptation and application of biocatalytic processes to functionalize, modify, recycle and degrade polymers as well as on environmental biotech applications employing enzymes, living cells and also complex cell populations in biofilms – or immobilized – on mineral materials in an industrial environment.
This involves the identification of novel enzymes and detailed mechanistic studies to allow a knowledge-based adaptation of these enzymes to the polymeric substrates. acib develops novel approaches in activity-based proteomics for the identification of new enzymes. This involves the establishment of a whole set of activity-based click-chemistry probes based on known covalent inhibitors specific for different enzyme classes to enable large scale discovery, substrate binding domain screening, characterization, subcellular localization and quantitative profiling of active enzymes.
The in silico screening of genomic databases and own next generation sequencing data is an another approach to identify novel enzymes acting on polymers and for polymer synthesis. The identified biocatalysts for polymer processing are then engineered for improved technological features; for example to adapt oxidoreductases to extreme environments such as for cross-linking polymers in drying films.
Several projects in the area aim at developing novel approaches for enzymatic surface functionalization while others focus on recycling of polymers like polyurethanes, polyesters or polyamides, their mixtures and composites. For the environmentally and increasingly economically important biotechnical recovery of metals from waste streams acib searches for a detailed understanding of microbial interactions in biofilms that is essential for selective functional immobilization of cellular populations, especially for anaerobic and aquatic processes, that are finally able to leach metals out of waste.




Georg Gübitz

Georg Gübitz

Function: Head of the research field Enzymes & Polymers

Phone: +43 2272 662 805 01



Michaela Preßnig

Function: Administration of Area 2


Microorganisms are essential for many industrial sectors. They are sophisticated factories in micro-format, which are able to perfectly produce pharmaceutical drugs, enzymes for the chemical, pharmaceutical, agrochemical or food industries or a variety of highly valuable chemicals. This requires the use of biotechnological methods. The characterization of production cells is as necessary as cell design, the systematic development of possible production lines or as finding ideal growth conditions which are all major research fields of acib.
In the past research relied on an empirical access to cell improvement. Trying out many different variants was labor intensive. Targets were reached slowly. Now acib focuses on the modern, fast approaches of systems biology.
Transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics or cytometry are used to analyze the cell factories up to the molecular level. Powerful analytical methods for fermentation processes, the genome of the cells or modeling of cellular functions and processes on a computer enable the precise adjustment of the cells to the requirements.
acib’s goal is the design of new biotechnological production platforms. Here we rely on 25+ years of experience and knowledge around various microbial production systems and methods of analysis.
acib works with bacteria such as Escherichia coli, with higher cells such as the yeast Pichia pastoris or with fungi like Aspergillus. All are used effectively in biotechnological production, but still have much room for improvement.

acib’s overall goal is the knowledge based engineering of microbial production systems for metabolites and recombinant proteins. Our challenges are to convert information from systems biological analysis and models into successful engineering strategies to adapt the cellular metabolism and its regulation efficiently for most efficient production of biomolecules. For example, we have identified negative metabolic trade off of industrial strains, which provides a framework for further targeted cell engineering, which will be a major breakthrough in further improvement of industrial processes.
The challenges in heterologous protein production are still strongly found in folding and secretion of non-native proteins, limiting yields and productivities. Based on a unique extensive dataset generated at acib, we will address specific parts of the secretory pathway, which have been identified as major limiting bottlenecks. While having reached the g/L range with several complex products such as antibody Fab fragments, acib scientists work on further innovative improvement by enhancing intracellular transport and oxidative folding and reducing proteolytic degradation. acib’s strategic projects are targeted towards emerging fields, namely membrane transport and artificial organelle targeting of enzymes and pathways and non-transcriptional regulation in microbial host organisms.




Diethard Mattanovich

Diethard Mattanovich

Function: Head of the research field Cell Design and Cell Engineering

Phone: 43 1 476 547 9042



Jonas Burgard

Phone: +43 1 476 543 0846



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.




Bernd Nidetzky

Bernd Nidetzky

Function: CSO of acib GmbH and Leader of Bioprospecting & Synthetic Biology

Phone: +43 316 873 8400


The development of a biotechnological production process – for example for a pharmaceutical compound – is a complex procedure. The establishment of a fermentation process in small laboratory scale with approximately 3 litres of culture volume yielding a few grams of product is followed by its “upscaling” to an industrial scale of several 100 litres of fermentation medium.
In the end, products intended for pharmaceutical use have to be of highest purity. The result of the fermentation process, however, is a mixture of nutrients, microorganisms and hundreds of substances produced in the fermentation. The desired product must be isolated from all other substances. The scientists at acib develop the best methods for separating the desired product, which in some ways is similar to the search for a needle in a haystack. Using new materials and techniques, they replace conventional, slow and not very satisfactory methods by new high-performance variants.
“Upscaling” and product purification are not only two of the major challenges of industrial biotechnology, but also research priorities at acib. It is aimed to combine the production and the purification part to continuous bioprocesses, where product is continuously produced and purified – without interruption of the process. This is the most efficient form of a biotechnological production method.
A continuous process in protein purification has been established by acib-researchers. The new method shortens purification by an elaborate circuit of chromatographic columns. The purification process is faster and more environmentally friendly due to the recycling of the solvent. Alongside classical chromatographic methods, acib-researchers work with bionanoparticles – tiny particles (diameter less than 2 micrometers) with special functions and an enormous performance in the work-up of biomaterials.

Engineering sciences and understanding of fundamental aspects allow the development of novel production processes for bio-manufacturing. By applying sophisticated process control and monitoring tools, acib addresses three goals of biopharmaceutical industry: (1) acceleration of process development, (2) consistent product quality and (3) real time or parametric release. The latter one is subject for the future of biotech industries. Prediction of processability at a very early stage goes along with these goals. Suitable monitoring and control is a prerequisite of continuous manufacturing, which is investigated by acib and will be implemented in the industry in the next decade.
It is acib’s challenge to address the engineering and economic questions simultaneously, which has an important potential for bioprocess development and bioprocess engineering. Continuous manufacturing using bionanoparticles has not been addressed before and may be the key for satisfactory consistency, higher productivity and ready-to-use processes. A further challenge is to combine material science with bioprocess engineering in order to develop materials with new functions for industrial bioprocesses.



Alois Jungbauer

Alois Jungbauer

Function: Head of the research field Bioprocess Engineering

Phone: +43 1 476 547 9083



Verena Beck

Function: Coordination of Area 5


Compared to other pharmaceuticals, therapeutic proteins saw an incredible growth rate over the last years. The scientific community and also industry still experience a great enthusiasm and an atmosphere of “gold rush” and innovation. Nevertheless, the development of both cell lines and processes is still mostly based on empirical trial and error methods. The mechanistic details of how a cell is able to handle high production rates of a foreign protein have not received the same attention and optimization within industry.
Therapeutic proteins are mostly produced in Chinese hamster ovary cells, as these CHO cells are able to synthesize proteins similar to those in humans.
Fortunately, the genomes of several Chinese hamster ovary cell lines and the species of origin, the Chinese Hamster itself, were published with major contributions by an acib research cooperation. acib’s focus is to use this genome information to perform a step change in the ability to produce therapeutic proteins at large scale, low cost and high speed. Scientific excellence should overcome the main problem – that mammalian cells like CHO are extremely complex, with many layers of regulation and control present. With systems biology approaches and –omics analytic tools, acib wants to understand all levels of molecular regulation.
acib’s goal is to achieve in-silico modeling of cellular processes and metabolism at a level of detail that would allow prediction of cellular behaviour. Together with the key players of the scientific community acib wants to establish detailed databases and bioinformatics tools for the interpretation and use of –omics results. Our long term goal is to achieve reduced production costs of valuable therapeutic compounds that are then affordable for most health systems.

Systems biology for mammalian production cells is the focus acib, aiming to achieve the paradigm shift from empiricism to controlling the molecular basis of productivity and product quality in mammalian cells. The establishment of bioinformatics tools, statistical analyses and mathematical models will enable the identification of relevant parameters and the prediction of cell behavior during bioprocesses, which, amongst other benefits, will lead to reduced costs for monitoring and control. As CHO production cell lines vary largely both in their genotype and phenotype, the identification of patterns of gene expression, protein activities and metabolite fluxes that correlate to process relevant properties of production cell lines, is a major goal of acib which will deliver both new engineering strategies and process monitoring protocols that focus on the state of the cells.
In view of the genome size of mammalian cell lines which is up to three orders of magnitude larger than that of bacteria or yeast, several challenges need to be overcome and will be addressed at acib. Improved protocols for assembly of large genomes or validated methods of model reduction for the exponentially larger metabolic models based on the high number of coding genes will be developed within acib projects. Similarly, the analysis of –omics results is more complex and interactive and thus requires new algorithms, specifically those that predict the impact of one layer of regulation on the next (eg. impact of microRNA expression on mRNA and protein concentrations). Both infrastructure and software will be provided to develop, host and maintain databases for use by researchers, the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory authorities. Finally results not covered by intellectual property rights will be made publicly accessible ( with a downloadable stand-alone version provided to industrial partners.




Nicole Borth

Nicole Borth

Function: Head of Animal Cell Technology & Engineering/p>

Phone: +43 1 476 547 9064



Martina Baumann

Function: Scientist and coordination of Area 6

COMET FUNDING / 2015-2019






Land Steiermark

Land Niederösterreich

Standortagentur Tirol

vienna business agency








FH Campus Wien

Resow University of Technology


TU Graz

TU Wien

Universitat Barcelona

Universität Wien

Universität Ljubljana

Uni Graz

Universität Pavia

Uni Innsbruck

Tsing Hua University

University of Canterbury

3M օsterreich GmbH
AB Enzymes GmbH
Agrana Research and Innovation Centre (ARIC)
ARAconsult GmbH
Repligen GmbH
Shire Ltd. (former Baxalta)
bio-ferm Biotechnologische Entwicklung und Produktion GmbH
BIOCRATES Life Sciences AG
BIOMIN Holding GmbH
Biotenzz Gesellschaft füŸr Biotechnologie mbH
Bisolbi-Inter LLC
Bisy e.U.
Boehringer Ingelheim RCV GmbH & Co KG
Carbios SA
Clariant Produkte (Deutschland) GmbH (former SŸüd-Chemie AG)
CNA Diagnostics
DSM Chem Tech R&D BV
Patheon Austria GmbH & Co KG
Evonik Creavis GmbH (former Evonik Industries AG)
G.L. Pharma GmbH
GALAB Laboratories GmbH
Glanzstoff Industries GmbH
HocusLocus GmbH
Qualizyme Diagnostics GmbH (ehem. InFact GesbR)
Jungbunzlauer Austria AG
Lactosan GmbH & Co KG
Legero Schuhfabrik GmbH
Lonza AG
Microinnova Engineering GmbH
Pfeifer & Langen GmbH & Co. KG
Pyroscience GmbH
RMB Research GmbH
Roal Oy Ltd.
roombiotic GmbH
Sandoz GmbH
Solution Shop AG
Syconium Lactic Acid GmbH
Synapse B.V.
Synovo GmbH
Themis Bioscience GmbH
voestalpine Stahl GmbH
VTU Technology GmbH
BDI - BioLife Science GmbH
Clariant India Ltd.
GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences AB
PharmaZell GmbH
SŸüdzucker AG
Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH