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Research Focus: Microbes providing Solutions to Climate Change: Developing a future Carbon Cycle with Synthetic Microbiology

Artificial cell
Photo: Tarryn Miller & Thomas Benoit

Can we reinvent the biological carbon cycle? This biological carbon cycle is the product of billions of years of evolution. It is dominated by only a handful of CO2- and CH4-converting enzymes. However, these natural solutions are all constrained by their respective architectures and represent only a fraction of the theoretically possible solution space.

Building on the knowledge about the evolution (Research Focus: Microbes as Drivers) and biochemistry (Research Focus: Microbes as Responders) of natural greenhouse gas-converting enzymes, we will use synthetic biology to re-open the biological design space towards new-to-nature reactions and enzymes. Our research wants to go beyond classical metabolic engineering approaches and understand human beings as active part of evolution that can re-initiate and re-open new evolutionary paths with synthetic biology.

Concentrated at the SYNMIKRO Center for Synthetic Microbiology, we will develop new enzymes, biosynthetic pathways and microbial chassis for more efficient CO2/CH4-conversions, providing solutions that Nature has apparently not explored or realized) during evolution. These efforts will enable completely novel (bio)catalytic solutions, including new and enhanced carbon-converting microbes, synthetic enzyme cascades, and prospectively even artificial cells. This research will deliver new problem-solving strategies and serve as innovation driver towards a sustainable carbon cycle 3.0, fostered by microbial solutions, a “microbial neo-carbonocene”.

Cooperation Partners