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Collaborative Projects as Coordinator

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.


Weed control by biological compounds identified in necrotizing plant pathogenic fungi

On a global scale, the total potential loss due to pests varied from about 50% in wheat to more than 80% in cotton production; overall, losses caused by weeds were the highest across pests, corresponding to 34%. Given the global impact of weeds on crop production, it is conceivable that the global herbicide market is estimated to reach $34.10 billion by 2022. Recent controversial discussions on the risk imposed by synthetic herbicides such as glyphosate explain the growing public demand for bio-compatible weed control. Indeed, within the different categories of herbicides, bio-herbicide are predicted to grow at the fastest rate (23.5% compound annual growth rate during the forecast period 2016 - 2022). In this project we will employ highly destructive plant pathogenic fungi to identify novel lead structures of plant necrotizing molecules. These structures, representing a novel class of bio-herbicides, will be chemically modified to optimize their efficacies.

Funding: European Regional Development Fund (EFRE)
Funding period: 03/2019 - 12/2021
Coordinator: Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB)
Partners with independently coordinated projects: Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institut für Agrar- und Ernährungswissenschaften - Pflanzenwissenschaften
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institut für Chemie - Organische Chemie
Contact at the IPB: Dr. Norbert Arnold


Screening new to nature libraries of diterpenoids generated by synthetic biology for novel anti-tumor activities

Natural products and their derivatives constitute a significant part of human pharmacopeia and regularly provide novel drugs. Nonetheless, the potential of natural products is not fully exploited due to low concentration, the difficulty to access the specific plants and to synthesize these complex compounds. In parallel, enormous progress has been made in metabolic engineering of plant natural products in microorganisms. It is now possible to produce plant secondary metabolites in yeast which is a main focus in the project CombioScreen. Using available genetic information about plant diterpenoid biosynthesis and a synthetic biology approach based on Golden Gate cloning, the research group from Prof. Alain Tissier will generate libraries of genes encoding candidate enzymes involved in those pathways. These include class I and class II diterpene synthases but also cytochrome P450 enzymes. An automated mass spectrometry screening will detect which gene combinations generate new products, which will then be tested for activity against cancer cell lines. The structure of compounds with activity will be determined and their mode of action on tumor cells extensively characterized.

Funding: European Regional Development Fund (EFRE)
Funding period: 01/2019 - 12/2021
Coordinator: Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB)
Partner: BioCenter, Medicinal-Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (PD Dr. Köck)
Contact: Professor Alain Tissier


Plant based natural products for the preservation of cognitive capabilities in old age

The cognitive abilities in aged people are influenced by many factors. The molecular dynamics of synapses play an important role during aging processes and also during early stages of neurodegenerative disease as e.g. Alzheimer’s dementia. Synaptic communication processes can be impaired by inflammatory diseases and metabolic syndrome parameters.

Plant metabolites possess, due to their evolutionary development as defense compounds, a high potential for neurological activity and thus applications. In addition, they often also exert anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties for which they are being used - mostly unknowingly with respect to the molecular background - since mankind uses plant food and medicine.

The ProCognito project aims at the investigation of effects and application potential of selected plant extracts and metabolites with respect to synaptic processes. The research shall contribute to the future development of new plant based approaches for the preservation of cognitive abilities in aged people. Within the department of Bioorganic Chemistry at IPB, the analytical and phytochemical characterization of plant samples as well as the identification, isolation and optimization of active components is performed. The effects of the plant based natural products are evaluated together with our cooperation partners from Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN, RG M. Kreutz).

Furthermore, the project includes the establishment and enhancement of an electronic Bioactives Cloud originating from the Leibniz Research Alliance “Bioactives and Biotechnology”. This innovative IT application as common platform for data mining, data analysis tools, information and data management and exchange shall facilitate the interdisciplinary communication, evaluation and exploitation of scientific data between cooperating institutions. The valorization of information will be supported by semantic text analyses, application of ontologies and implementation of intelligent neuronal networks.

Funding: European Regional Development Fund (EFRE)
Joint Research Project: "Autonomy in old age - Model Region Saxony Anhalt"
Funding period: 07/2019 - 09/2022
Coordinator: Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB)
Partner: Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology (LIN)
Contact: Dr. Katrin Franke and Professor Ludger Wessjohann


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, the main components of tall oils 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.

Funding: European Regional Development Fund (EFRE)
Funding period: 04/2017 - 03/2020
Coordinator: Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB)
Partner: Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes (CBP)
Contact: Professor Ludger Wessjohann


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.

Funding: European Regional Development Fund (EFRE)
Joint Research Project: "Autonomy in old age - Model Region Saxony Anhalt"
Funding Period: 06/2017- 05/2020
Coordinator: Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB)
Partner: Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben, and others
Contact: Prof. Dr. Ludger Wessjohann and Dr. Katrin Franke

Leibniz Research Cluster

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. The research of the LRC is mainly carried out by junior research groups in these institutes.

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Leibniz Association
Funding Period: 2015 - 2020
Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry (IPB) Halle,
Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (HKI) Jena (Consortium Manager),
Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS) Dortmund,
Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research (IPF) Dresden,
Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM) Saarbrücken
Contact at the IPB: Prof. Dr. Ludger Wessjohann
Website: www.leibniz-research-cluster.de

This page was last modified on 21.11.2019.

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