Itaconic acid production in micro-organisms

In order to contribute to the bio-based economy, the US-Department of Energy (DOE) assigned a “top-12” of platform chemicals, which comprises a large number of organicacids. In particular di-carboxylic acids, such as itaconic acid, can be used as monomers for bio-polymers.

A large scale biobased production of organic acids requires an integrated approach of the value-chain and the production process, the use of 2nd generation biomass, top class metabolic engineering and host development, novel reactor concepts, the use of highly selective separation processes both upstream as well as downstream and an optimal recycling and reuse of waste streams.

Aim and research question


Interest in sustainable development has led to attempts to replace petrochemical-based monomers with natural ones. Itaconic acid has a growing market potential as acomponent of resins or synthetic fibres. Because these biobased building blocks have to compete with their petrochemical counterparts microbial productivity and yield are of the utmost importance.


This project aims to use renewable second generation feedstocks for production of itaconic acid (IA) by using micro-organisms. The work consist of designing novel pathwaydesign for IA production, metabolic engineering of E. coli and S. cerevisiae, fermentation studies, enzymatic activity measurements and metabolic flux analyses among other techniques. Further pathway design for the production of IA will be focused on the identification of relevant new target genes for strain improvement, prevention of interfering pathways and locating putative genes for IA transport.

Thesis projects

Within this project there are various possibilities for doing a BSc or MSc thesis.

If you are interested in doing a BSc or MScthesis, feel free to contact me.