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Diatoms as Bioreactors for the Production of Therapeutics and Biopolymers

 Dr. Franziska Hempel


Microalgae have enormous potential for diverse biotechnological applications and currently attract much attention in the biofuel sector. Still underestimated, though, is the idea of using microalgae as expression system for the production of recombinant proteins. Microalgae combine rapid growth rates with all the advantages of eukaryotic expression systems, and offer great potential for solar-powered, low cost production of pharmaceutical proteins.

In our projects, we use the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum as expression platform for the production of therapeutic proteins like antibodies and vaccines, polymers such as the bioplastic PHB and other biotechnologically relevant materials revealing the great potential of these microalgae as solar-powered microfactories.



A. Electron microscopic picture of an engineered P. tricornutum cell expressing the bioplastic Poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB). B. Fluorescence microscopic picture of P.tricornutum cells expressing GFP fusion constructs of light and heavy chains of a human IgG antibody against the Hepatits B Virus surface protein (HBsAg). Autofluorescence of the plastid is depicted in red, GFP fluorescence in green.




Schrimpf A, Hempel F, Li A, Linne U, Maier UG, Reetz MT, Geyer A (2018) Hinge-type dimerization of proteins by a tetra-cysteine peptide of high pairing specificity. Biochemistry, 57(26):3658-3664. DOI:10.1021/acs.biochem.8b00475.

Vanier G, Stelter S, Vanier J, Hempel F, Maier UG, Lerouge P, Ma J, Bardor M. (2018) Alga-made anti-Hepatitis B antibody binds to human Fcy receptors. Biotechnology J., 13(4):e1700496. DOI 10.1002/biot.201700496

Hempel F, Maurer M, Brockmann B, Mayer C, Biedenkopf N, Kelterbaum A, Becker S, Maier UG (2017). From hybridomas to a robust microalgal-based production platform: molecular design of a diatom secreting monoclonal antibodies directed against the Marburg virus nucleoprotein. Microb Cell Fact. 16 (1):131. doi: 10.1186/s12934-017-0745-2.

Hempel F, Maier UG (2016) Microalgae as Solar-Powered Protein Factories. Adv Exp Med Biol. 896:241-62. doi: 10.1007/978-3-391-27216-0_16

Vanier G, Hempel F, Chan P, Rodamer M, Vaudry D, Maier UG, Lerouge P, Bardor M (2015) Biochemical Characterization of Human Anti-Hepatitis B Monoclonal Antibody Produced in the Microalgae Phaeodactylum tricornutum. PLoS ONE, 10(10):e0139282. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139282

Hempel F, Maier UG (2012) An engineered diatom acting like a plasma cell secreting human IgG antibodies with high efficiency. Microbial Cell Factories, 11:126

Hempel F, Lau J, Klingl A, Maier UG (2011) Algae as protein factories: Expression of a human antibody and the respective antigen in the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Plos One, 6(12): e28424

Hempel F, Bozarth A, Lindenkamp N, Klingl A, Zauner S, Linne U, Steinbüchel A, Maier UG (2011) Microalgae as bioreactors for bioplastic production. Microbial Cell Factories, 10:81

Bozarth AS, Maier UG, Zauner S (2009) Diatoms in biotechnology: modern tools and applications. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 82(2):195-201


Hempel F, Maier UG (2017) Bestseller aus Mikrofabriken - Algen als Bioreaktoren zur Herstellung monoklonaler Antikörper. LABO 10/2017

Bioplastik in Kieselalgen, Hessenschau-Beitrag (25. Oktober 2013, 00:18:20)

Hempel F, Maier UG (2012) Solarbetriebene Mikrofabriken aus dem Meer. BIOforum, 35 (2): 17-19  PDF [300 KB]

"Algae as solar-powered microfactories” – Digital contribution in the international travelling exhibition „Max Planck Science Tunnel 3.0“


Zuletzt aktualisiert: 12.10.2018 · hempelfr

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