Youri van Nuland


Microbial conversion of fatty acids towards chemical building blocks

Dicarboxylic acids (DCA’s) are important high performance building blocks for a large variety of products, such as plastics and coatings. These DCA’s are mostly derived from finite petrochemical resources. We want to make DCA’s in a sustainable way. The starting point for these sustainable DCA’s are fatty acids that are generated from waste.

Enzymatic production of dicarboxylic acid

In order to make a dicarboxylic acid from these fatty acids, the ω-methyl group has to be oxidized. Introducing oxygen onto a methyl group (ω-oxidation) is challenging. This can be achieved with traditional chemistry, but this process is very hazardous and energy intensive. A better alternative can be found in nature; several classes of microorganisms are able to do this conversion enzymatically with high yields. I would like to exploit this capability and develop an organism that is robust so that it can be applied on industrial scale. In this way a high yield process can be developed that is mild and selective.

Aim and research question

My aim is to create an organism that can produce large quantities of dicarboxylic acids from fatty acids.


Several hosts are investigated for their ω-oxidation capability. Appropriate hosts will be genetically engineered towards maximal production capacity. In order to have most control as possible, controlled fermentations will be performed with the strains of interest.

Thesis projects

Within this project, several aspects can be investigated as a part of a BSc/MSc thesis or an internship. Core subjects/techniques associated with this project are molecular biology, enzymatic assays, whole-cell bioconversion, GC-MS, fermentation.

Feel free to contact me if you are interested:
Room TT1.074 (Axis Z)

Tel. 0317-485308


This project is funded by the BE-Basic program