The living cell as a factory for pharmaceutically relevant compounds is the central theme of the Department of Technical Biochemistry. Within the research two main objectives can be distinguished:
- the cell as a producer of pharmaceuticals and
- the biosynthetic network in plant cell as a target for drug and gene discovery
These objectives are supported by three research lines:
Medical Plant Biotechnology
The plant biotechnology research line is concentrated on the production of bioactive compounds of natural origin using plant cell cultures and plants. Next to phytochemical analysis, molecular-biological techniques are increasingly applied to gain insight into biosynthetic routes and to control the formation of bioactive compounds (pathway engineering).
Metabolic profiling and metabolomics
The metabolomic and metabolic profiling research concentrates on biotechnologically produced recombinant low molecular natural products like secondary natural products in heterologous microorganisms. Biological systems are applied to generate molecular diversity, which is of utmost importance for lead finding in drug discovery. Both natural diversity, e.g. plant cells and directed diversity, e.g. directed evolution, are being investigated. Pathway engineered plants and microorganisms are analysed for metabolic flow and flux of relevant precursors to design strategies for precursor redirection, detection of metabolic bottlenecks and optimal direction of prcursors in in vitro bioreactor systems. Metabolic profiling and metabolomic analysis is carried out by LC-MS, HPLC-NMR and 2D-H-NMR.
Metabolic Engineering, Combinatorial Biosynthesis and plant biochemistry
In addition a second research line will be established to support research in the field of biochemistry and biosynthesis of medicinally used natural products. In the research line of combinatorial biosynthesis biosynthetic pathways of natural products which are complicated to isolate, or which are too expensive because of limited amount and high demand (like paclitaxel, artemisinin) are of interest. Combinatorial biosynthesis is a new tool in the generation of novel natural products, as well as for the production of rare and expensive natural products, and this research line is not covered by technical biochemistry groups in Europe. The basic concept of future research in the research line is to combine metabolic pathways in different organisms on the genetic level. The main problem with combinatorial biosynthesis is that most biosynthetic pathways are still poorly understood at the genetic level, with relatively few genes involved in regulation and biosynthesis in plants having been sequenced and functionally elucidated. With reference plants like Artemisia annua and Anthriscus sylvestris basic research should be worked out, but extension to other plants of interests are possible.