TUM and WACKER establish Institute for Industrial Biotechnology

Christian Hartel, CEO of Wacker Chemie AG (l.), and TUM President Thomas F. Hofmann signed the agreement. © Uli Benz / TUM

With the founding of the TUM WACKER Institute for Industrial Biotechnology, Wacker Chemie AG and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) intend to raise research in industrial biotechnology in Germany to a top international level. The two partners will bring their combined forces to bear on researching new approaches for the production of specialty chemicals and active ingredients from renewable resources as a basis for a sustainable economic system.WACKER is funding the institute with more than EUR six million over six years.

Industrial biotechnology is concerned, among other things, with the biotechnological production of specialty chemicals and active ingredients using optimized enzymes, cells, and microorganisms. Key feedstocks are renewable raw materials. Industrial biotechnology finds application in diverse branches of industry, such as food and health, as well as cosmetics and textiles. Examples here are pharmaceutical active ingredients and dietary supplements based on modified carbohydrates or proteins.

Focus on nucleic acids for cancer therapy

In researching new biotechnological production systems, one focus of the institute will be on the production of nucleic acids that are used, among other things, in the treatment of diseases, such as cancer therapy. In addition, the production of low-molecular compounds and the development of new process concepts are in the foreground. To this end, the institute plans to collaborate closely with WACKER's development department.

Pioneering technology with huge potential

For Dr. Christian Hartel, CEO of Wacker Chemie AG, industrial biotechnology is a pioneering technology with great potential for the future: “It can replace processes based on fossil raw materials, and reduce energy and raw materials consumption. That lowers production costs, conserves resources and protects the environment.” The Institute for Industrial Biotechnology will do invaluable work in the development and implementation of sustainable biotechnological processes for all kinds of applications, he stresses.

“Industrial biotechnology is one of the keys that will help us achieve the goal of a sustainable economic system,” says Prof. Thomas F. Hofmann, President of the Technical University of Munich (TUM). “We will be linking the disciplines with each other, ranging from research at the molecular level to chemical engineering and process engineering. Through closely collaborating with WACKER, we will accelerate the effective transfer of the knowledge gained thereby to industrial practice.”

TUM and WACKER have been collaborating in different areas for many years, actively driving knowledge transfer between scientific research and industry. Together, they now want to focus on a particularly promising field.

The TUM WACKER Institute for Industrial Biotechnology will become part of the Munich Institute of Integrated Materials, Energy and Process Engineering, an integrative research center that brings together TUM’s strengths at the interfaces of new materials, innovative process and production technologies and energy engineering. The TUM WACKER Institute will be headed by Prof. Sonja Berensmeier, a high-profile expert in the field of new biofunctional materials and process development for the separation of biotechologically produced high- and low-molecular biomolecules. Over the next six years, 20 doctoral candidates will be doing research work at the institute. The new institute will commence its work in the 2022/2023 winter semester.