Genetic and metabolic engineering of thermophiles: Developing novel high-throughput tools

Nowadays, there is a growing interest in generating renewable alternatives to the use of fossil resources as basis of today’s plastics. Green chemicals (chemicals which are derived from renewable resources) are building blocks for bioplastics and their production is a hot research topic. In a biorefinery (see below), microbes are used to convert renewable biomass into a range of green fuels and (building block) chemicals, which can in turn be used for the production of for example bioplastics. However, this type of refineries is currently still too expensive to be economically competitive with traditional refineries.

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Aim of the project

Our project is aimed at developing a new generation of genetically engineered thermophilic microbial production strains, that are suited for cost-effective production of various green chemicals in a biorefinery concept. Industrial advantages compared to today’s mesophilic white biotechnology work horses will be the thermophilic nature, the anaerobic fermentation capacities, the ability to use lignocellulosic sugars, and the possibility to use simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) of lignocellulosic substrates. The project has a strong focus on the development of novel high-throughput tools for metabolic engineering of recently isolated thermophilic strains and has a close link to practical application.


  • Techniques that you could use during your project include:
  • Heterologous expression, in vitro purification and evaluation of novel engineering enzymes
  • Cloning and in vivo evaluation of these enzymes and elucidation of their mechanism of action
  • Use of the novel tools for targeted metabolic engineering of the selected thermophiles, subsequent fermentation in lab-scale bioreactors and HPLC analysis
  • Development of high-throughput screening tools for product detection
  • Metabolic modelling combining dry and wet lab approaches 

Contact information
For more information about an internship, thesis or other form of student project, please feel free to contact us by e-mail, phone, or just pass by:

Address: Dreijenplein 10, WUR building nr 316, room 0.022. Phone: +31(0)317-483748