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Here you find a list of collaborative research projects which are coordinated or were co-founded by the IPB. They receive third-party funding after a successful application for national or international grants.

Purified Hydrophilized Phytosterol Intermediates – From Paper Pulp Waste to High Value Food Additives

Sterols from plant origin are designated as phytosterols. They are similar to the animal derived cholesterol and are used in the food industry as natural components with cholesterol lowering effect. Phytosterols are in the focus of the food and pharmaceutical industry as basis of flavor modifying substances, for improved delivery and adsorption (cf. bile acids) of nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, or as biodetergents.

A potential, cost-saving resource of phytosterols are tall oils, that accumulate as a byproduct during the paper production process. Commonly, tall oils' main components are fatty acids, resin acids and phytosterols of different compositions depending on the source wood. In this collaborative project, scientists of the Fraunhofer CBP (supervisor, PI Gerd Unkelbach) will analyze tall oils of local paper factories and establish methods for their isolation and purification. Subsequently, at the IPB (supervisor, Professor Ludger Wessjohann), we will look into the conversion of these natural substances into high value products by use of biocatalytic processes.

In contrast to the common fatty acid acyl derivatives extensively studied before, here the focus lies on the development of new polar intermediates and products of phytosterols. There are sterol scaffolds that obtain their biological activity from hydroxylations and glycosylations (addition of sugar moieties), and this shall be mimicked and expanded to provide usable first processes for further development in the flavor and fragrance (F&F) and food industry. Biocatalytic processes are not only favored for legal, consumer and environmental reasons, but in contrast to most traditional chemical processes they allow the regio- and stereoselective hydroxylation of few or non-activated CH groups in the sterol.

The interdisciplinary project is funded for three years (04/2017- 03/2020) by the European Regional Development Fund. The Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (Contact person: Professor Ludger Wessjohann) acts as coordinator collaborating with the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes (CBP).

PhytoAD – Utilization of natural products for prevention and therapy of dementia and age-related cognitive disorders

Hypericum perforatum L. (St. John's Wort)
Hypericum perforatum L. (St. John's Wort)

Alzheimer’s disease as the most prevailing age-related neurodegenerative disease is connected to severe reduction of autonomy in the normal course of life. So far, no treatment strategies are available, that stop disease progression.

The aim of the PhytoAD project is to discover plant species and natural products, which can be used for the treatment of age-related cognitive disorders. Furthermore, neuroactive compounds from already applied species, e.g. St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum L.) and Greek mountain tea (Sideritis scardica Griseb.) will be characterized and evaluated with regard to improvement of dementia symptoms, cognition and memory. Special emphasis will be on the applied expansion of basic knowledge on the production, purification and effects of neuroactive constituents. Based on phytochemical and phytogenetic characterization, not only defined plant extracts but also single compounds with pharmaceutical potential will be studied. The Department of Bioorganic Chemistry focuses on the preparation and characterization of plant extracts as well as on the isolation and structure elucidation of constituents and their biological activity.

The interdisciplinary project is funded for 3 years (06/2017- 05/2020) by the European Regional Development Fund. Partners, among others, are the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (coordination) and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben. This project is integrated in the research cluster “Autonomy in old age – model region Saxony-Anhalt”.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Ludger Wessjohann und Dr. Katrin Franke

Leibniz Research Cluster (LRC): Bio/Synthetic multifunctional micro-production units - Novel ways in bioactive compound development -

The development of new nature-based bioactive compounds for medicine (e.g. antibiotics, immunomodulators) and for nutritional and agricultural industries (e.g. innovative fungicides, phytoeffectors) is a major challenge for application-oriented research. Solutions for many of these problems can be offered by biotechnology. The LRC "Bio/Synthetic multifunctional micro-production units" is aiming to develop novel cell-free and multifunctional platforms for biotechnological processes. In a unique concept, the LRC unites life sciences and engineering to make use of the emerging synergies. Five institutes from the biological and natural science / engineering sections of the Leibniz Association initiated the LRC: In addition to the Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry, Halle (IPB), these are the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute, Jena (HKI) as consortium manager, the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research, Dresden (IPF), the Leibniz Institute for New Materials, Saarbrücken (INM), and the Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences, Dortmund (ISAS). The research of the LRC is mainly carried out by junior research groups in these institutes. Contact at the IPB: Prof. Dr. Ludger Wessjohann.

ERA-SynBio "SmartPlants": Development of synthetic regulatory networks in plants

A major goal of plant synthetic biology is to create smart plants that are able to respond to key cues and display a variety of agronomically valuable traits such as enhanced stress resilience or the biosynthesis of high value compounds. The objectives of the SmartPlants consortium coordinated by Prof. Alain Tissier are to develop parallel regulatory networks (PaRNets) that are based on cues that plants normally encounter in their growth cycle and to translate these into metabolic engineering-based outputs to produce high value or stress-protecting compounds. Both the regulatory network and the metabolic engineering optimisation procedures will be assisted by modelling in iterative rounds. The partners of this ERA-Net project are the IPB (coordinator), the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (Dr. Phil Wigge) and the Latvia University of Agriculture (Prof. Egils Stalidzans). Contact: Prof. Alain Tissier.


St. John´s wort against Alzheimer´s Disease – Meeting of a social challenge by new methods for identification, production and application of natural products

The aim of this project is to investigate the molecular background of the effects of St. John´s wort (Hypericum perforatum) and other plant extracts to treat dementia and other age-related neurodegenerative disorders. Hypericum contains hyperforine and hypericine, which are known to cause some desired but also unwanted side effects. Other compounds appear to be relevant for the anti-dementia properties. The project is funded for 3 years by the Leibniz Association within the "Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation". The project is coordinated by IPB-NWC. Partners are the University of Oslo, Norway, the IPK Gatersleben, the Technical University Braunschweig and the MLU Halle-Wittenberg. Contacts: Dr. Katrin Franke and Prof. Wessjohann.

Further information

ERA-CAPS "H.I.P.": Homeostasis of Isoprenoid in Plants

Isoprenoids constitute a particularly important class of plant metabolites for many reasons. They include hormones, housekeeping molecules, secondary metabolite terpenoids and are involved in post-translational modification of proteins. Plant terpenoids are particularly relevant for humans, since they are used as pharmaceutical ingredients, fragrance and aroma compounds, insecticides, and specialty chemicals. In plants, these different classes of isoprenoid compounds are produced in extremely different quantities spanning several orders of magnitude, even within a single cell. Glandular trichomes are specialized cells that produce industrially relevant terpenoids and are thus an excellent system for the study of isoprenoid metabolism. These natural cell factories are studied by the group of Prof. Alain Tissier to understand the compartmentalization, flux and transport of isoprenoids in glandular trichomes for non-crop and crop species. The employed approaches include transcriptomics, proteomics, cell biology, interactomics, genetics and metabolomics. Partners of the IPB are the Volcani Center ARO (Israel), the Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium), and the University of Amsterdam, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (Netherlands). Contact: Prof. Alain Tissier.

Biocatalytic production of phenylpropanoids

Phenylpropanoids and their derivatives constitute a dominant group of naturally occuring plant secondary metabolites with high economic potential. These compounds are not only highly relevant for the food and flavor (e.g. vanillin) or perfume industries (e.g. eugenol) but are also applied in technical processes (e.g. coumarins in dye lasers). As the natural resources for many of the economically interesting compounds are not sufficient to satisfy the demand, new processes for the biocatalytic and biotechnological production of these compounds will be developed. The general power of such processes can be illustrated with vanillin: only a minor proportion of this compound can be accessed using vanilla orchid pods: 99 % of this world´s most important flavor are produced from lignin applying biotechnological or chemical approaches - at 1 % of the cost of vanilla pods. The basis is that Vanilla orchids and trees use principally the same biochemistry and the same intermediates to these natural products. In order to develop comparable methods for other secondary metabolites, the project "Phenylpropanoids" is embedded in two cooperations. The biosynthesis of phenylpropanoid scaffolds will be engineered in suitable organisms (cooperation: Aufarbeitung biotechnischer Produkte, Prof. Dr. M. Pietzsch, MLU; Funding: ScienceCampus Halle – Plant-based Bioeconomy). Enzymatic systems for the production of higher phenylpropanoid derivatives (e.g. flavonoids, coumarines) will be developed within the Leibniz Research Cluster "Bio/Synthetische multifunktionale Mikro-Produktionseinheiten" in the subproject "Biobricks of plant biosyntheses". Contact: Dr. Danilo Meyer and Prof. Wessjohann.

This page was last modified on 21.09.2017.

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