Maria Sammalkorpi

A pressing need for renewable, biodegradable, yeast or bacteria culture produced biosynthetic materials exists in our society. Specifically, self-organizing biosynthetic structural protein materials could induce a green revolution in fiber, textile, and composite industries. These materials also offer breakthroughs in pharmaceutical materials, especially as support and host matrices but also triggered gel-solid transition systems, and sustainable solutions for alimentation industry. Living cells control structural material self-organization and materials properties via non-equilibrium processes such as material flows and dynamically evolving assemblies. The HACMAT project targets design principles for advanced biosynthetic protein materials that self-organize in a non-equilibrium, active condensate phase. HACMAT uses computational modelling combined with experimental characterization.


Photo credit: Aalto University/Mikko Raskinen

Yvonne Nygård

In this project, the focus is on constructing microbes, yeasts and filamentous fungi (molds) that are used for biotechnological production of aromatic biochemicals. These chemicals are used in the manufacture of various medicines or as additives in cosmetics or food. Today, most aromatic chemicals are produced from oil, through polluting chemical reactions. Thus, the need for new, sustainable production methods is urgent. The production of biochemicals will be improved through new cutting-edge technology, using genetic scissors and biosensors, genetic tools that can measure the content of chemicals produced by the cells. The biosensors developed will serve as tools to determine what genetic engineering can be done to increase the production and to evaluate strain performance. Strains will be constructed and characterized in high-throughput to ensure success and increase knowledge. More productive microbial cell factories are needed for bio-based chemicals to be competitive and applied industrially.

Johannes Kabisch

Through the processes of evolution bacteria have developed to survive the harshest of environments. One of the strategies is to protect their blueprint for life, their DNA, in so called spores. These dormant spores can persist for thousands of years and upon encountering a sustainable environment return to a normal life and propagate. We are in daily contact with such spores, some are used as probiotics helping us to recover our intestinal flora, while others are being used as a bio-friendly means to support agriculture. The PolySpore project will use this naturally evolved “DNA-safe” as a platform to develop novel, extremly strong materials as well as biological super-hard drives allowing us to safely store DNA-encoded data protected by the spores.

Gaston Courtade

Polysaccharides are sugar chains that provide a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based materials. The properties and applications of polysaccharides depend on the layout of sugar building blocks in the chain. To fully harness the potential of polysaccharides as biomaterials, we need to be able to control how they are made by living organisms. Polysaccharides are often assembled by enzymes that transfer a specific type of sugar to another one, creating a chain with defined sequence and properties. The project aims to control and engineer how these enzymes combine the sugar building blocks. This will help us understand how polysaccharides are assembled and at the same time allow us to make polysaccharides with new sequences. Using this knowledge, we hope to one day be able to design tailor-made polysaccharides and biomaterials with unique functions needed in a greener society.

Rosanna Catherine Hennessy

BoostR is an innovative and multidisciplinary research program to identify and characterize small molecules regulating specialized metabolism in biotechnologically relevant bacteria. Specialized metabolites are an important and often untapped source of bioactive compounds with vast applications in industrial and environmental biotechnology. However, under laboratory conditions specialized metabolites are often not produced. To unlock these valuable pathways, a molecular level understanding of the regulators and genetic networks controlling specialized metabolite synthesis is needed. BoostR aims to unlock, unravel and utilize small regulatory molecules to control and boost production of high-value bioactive compounds for biotechnology. This research will benefit society by providing basic and applied research studies to develop new biological systems and products to promote productivity and sustainability.

Jane Wittrup Agger

Lignin, which is a part of the fibrous structure in wood, is a renewable resource that can potentially replace the use of oil and gas in a number of applications and materials, which we consider critical to modern society. Currently, lignin is not used because it is difficult to extract from wood in sufficient quality and form. Wood and plant biomass are already extensively used in many applications, but traditional industrial processing heavily degrades lignin. Consequently, 98% of the lignin that enters processing today is merely burned off.  The purpose of LiFe is to discover new enzymes and non-catalytic proteins that will allow extraction of lignin in a high quality form. We will employ enzymes and other proteins, because they are specific and environmentally friendly catalysts. In the future, high quality lignin will make it feasible to develop highly advanced applications like next generation batteries, carbon fibers, bioplastics, building materials and more, based on plants and not on oil.

Amelia-Elena Rotaru

Miia Mäkelä

Pablo Iván Nikel Mayer

Suvi Santala