Producing biomolecules like on an assembly line

Fraunhofer Lighthouse Project Cell-Free Bioproduction

Spotlights on current research

Here you can gain a short insight into the recent activities of the Fraunhofer researchers.

Preservation of resources and enhancing efficiency by Cell-Free Bioproduction

Success and sustainability of the modern society are among other things based on the easy availability of biomolecules. In medicine for example there is a requirement for huge amounts of capable vaccines against different influenza viruses. At the same time the production of these vaccines has to be flexible to adapt to new pathogenic germs. But also in nutrition technology as well as in the cosmetic and in the detergent industry there is a need for synthetic produced enzymes, peptides and other biomolecules.  

Currently this demand for biomolecules is covered by using living cells or organisms, like the bacterium E. coli. Thus this technology is highly productive, there are three disadvantages:

  1. The economic efficiency is limited by the high energy input for maintaining the metabolism of the microorganism or cell culture.
  2. Some intermediate or end products may be toxic or have an inhibitory effect on the growth of the cells.
  3. The final products have to pass through complex cleaning and separation processes to isolate them from unneeded components. This often generates high costs too.

The Cell-Free Bioproduction of proteins, as addressed in the Fraunhofer research overcomes these problems. In contrast to conventional methods the biomolecules in this approach are synthetized outside of living cells. This saves resources, as for example no energy for the maintenance of the cell metabolism has to be applied. Moreover the product can be purified very easily and rapidly.           

Flexibility and better Management of natural resources

In fact the Cell-Free proteinsynthesis is not a completely new technique. But currently it has a very limited applicability. Even in its most advanced available form only very little amounts of biomolecules can be produced. Furthermore the established approaches are not controllable.

The scientists of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft now aim at making this technology utilizable for industrial purposes. They are working on an actively controllable reactor system adapted to industrial needs. In this way the Fraunhofer research supports an efficient and resource saving production of biomolecules.