Description of the research groups:
“Bio/Technology group” (Univ.-Prof. DI Dr. Bernd Nidetzky)
This group carries out basic research on enzyme catalysis and studies bioprocess development using enzymes as the biocatalysts. The concept is to build on the understanding of fundamental kinetic and chemical mechanisms of the enzymatic reaction and move toward real application by analyzing interactions between biochemical and physical factors that occur on the process scale. The research focuses on enzymes that can make glycosidic bonds between sugar units (glycobiotechnology) and catalyze oxidoreductive biotransformations. We aim at utilizing renewable carbohydrate-based resources such as lignocellulose, starch, sucrose, or lactose for the production of functional “sugars” to be used in medicine or for food and feed applications. We explore novel enzymes from nature, try to understand how enzymes of interest work by using a detailed structure and function analysis, and design improved processes by targeted modifications of enzyme properties (such as specificity or stability) and innovative reaction engineering.
"Applied Microbial Physiology" (Univ.-Prof. DI Dr. Gerhart Braunegg)
The research group is engaged in the development of different biotechnological processes. Based on the knowledge of microbial physiology and fermentation technology microbial growth and product formation are optimized. The research group is working on processes for Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) production from different agricultural waste materials. PHA are biopolyesters accumulated intracellularly in procaryonts up to high quantities and are produced from renewable substrates and due to their properties are similar to oil-born thermoplasts. Another task is the stereospecific hydroxylation of non activated carbon atoms in compounds synthesized by the Institute of Organic Chemistry with fungi and bacteria. Fermentation conditions are optimized to get optically pure products in high yields. Heavy metals are leached by different microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) from ash fractions derived from biomass combustion and gasification plants. Conditions for microbial leaching are optimized, and the separation of the heavy metals from the leachate is performed by microorganisms accumulating these compounds intra- or extracellularly.
Enzyme-Technology (Univ.-Prof. DI Dr. Walter Steiner)
The research is focused on the biotechnological production, purification and characterisation of industrially important enzymes. Besides the use of different optimisation strategies for experimental design and process development the attention is directed towards intensive kinetic analysis of the reactions involved.
The main research areas are enzymes involved in the degradation and synthesis of biopolymers like hydrolysis of plant biomass and oligosacchidsynthesis. Furthermore enzymes for pulp and paper industries applied in biobleaching and deinking are under investigation. Moreover enzymes from "Extremophiles" (xylanases, endoglucanases, etc) and enzymes used in "Biocatalysis and Biotransformations" (hydroxynitrile lyases, lipases) are studied within the frame of national (SFB) and international (EC) joint research programmes.
The Institute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering is the main Austrian university institution for basic and applied research at the interface of biological sciences and process engineering. The aim is to achieve innovative solutions for efficient and accelerated process development in biotechnology using an integrated scientific-technological approach that combines modern methods of molecular and process bioengineering. The research activities are focused on three main fields: applied enzymology and enzyme technology; metabolic and reaction engineering for biocatalysis and renewable resource utilization; and glycobiotechnology.