Germany launches EUR200 million biotechnology research programme
Berlin – Germany is to invest EUR200 million over the coming 15 years to develop the next generation of biotechnology processes. “The full potential of biotechnology isn’t yet fully exploited”, said BMBF State Secretary Helge Braun during the presentation of the new Biotechnology 2020 Plus programme in Berlin. “We can change this by applying engineering principles to biotechnology.” A long-term goal of the ambitious programme is to separate biological functions from cells, and to create robust reaction modules that can mimic biological processes even under harsh reaction conditions. This would enable engineers to integrate the water-soluble biological processes into existing industrial value chains, for example using cell-free photosynthesis modules for energy production, or artificial enzymes or cell modules to produce chemicals in a solvent-free environment. Because most of these goals are currently more vision than reality, the Ministry for Research has kicked off a so-called strategy process that brings together experts from a variety of fields to discuss the kinds of projects required to realise the biologisation of industrial processes. Four major research organisations have signed a memorandum of understanding to contribute to the process. Synthetic biology is expected to play an important role in the programme.