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Research alliance for the microbial production and application of biopolymers

November 7, 2013

Biotech firm BRAIN AG along with the Hohenstein Institute, Kelheim Fibres and rökona, have formed a new research alliance for the biotechnical production and modification of specialty alginates. The aim of the alliance is to establish a sustainable microbial bioprocess for the production of specialized alginate components. The biopolymers should serve a dual purpose: application in high-quality medical product matrices and within the innovative textile industry.

In addition to the Zwingenberg-based BRAIN, the research alliance involves the Hohenstein Institut für Textilinnovation GmbH (Bönnigheim), specialty viscose fiber manufacturer Kelheim Fibres GmbH (Kelheim) and the manufacturer of highly specialized materials for medical technology rökona Textilwerk GmbH (Tübingen).

The biopolymer products will be used in both topical and wound-phase specific dressings, as well as for application-specific modification of matrices in technical textiles. Aside from high purity and more defined material properties of the biopolymer, the advantage of microbial production processes is an improvement in the environmental efficiency of products. Parts of the alliance research project will be co-financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under grant number 013A126 and the acronym AlBioTex.

"Alongside our partners in the alliance, we want to build a high-quality biobased matrix system and at the same time, a sustainable process in terms of the yield and techno-functionality of the biopolymers,” says Guido Meurer, unit head microbial production technologies at BRAIN. “BRAIN has been an active researcher of innovative, supportive, bioactive substances for use in medical products for several years. These substances are then introduced into appropriate biological matrices and ultimately into modern wound dressings.”

The primary objective of BRAIN, alongside the Hohenstein Institute, is to develop microbial production organisms for application in industrial quantities of biopolymers in appropriate biofermentation processes on an industrial scale. These research results also assist in the common aim of developing innovative nonwoven materials.

"Until now, the variation and optimization of the material properties of alginate was either not possible at all, or only possible with immense effort. Through the use of biotechnology, a differentiated use of alginates is made possible in the specialized textile field for the first time,” says Timo Hammer, head of research in the department of hygiene, environment and medicine at the Hohenstein Institute, and coordinator of the AlBioTex project.

The partners Kelheim Fibres and rökona Textilwerk participate in the alliance by providing access to high-quality, homogeneous biopolymers. The plan is to develop functional textiles with new properties and to use them in pilot processes.

"The production of high-quality and homogeneous biopolymers is crucial for our functional viscose fibers based on renewable resources. Formation of research alliance for the biotechnological production of biopolymers with various functionalities expand this range of innovative fiber properties for new high-tech applications,” says Walter Roggenstein, head of research and development at Kelheim Fibres.

"The joint research in these two fields, the textile and medical technology industries, is another prime example of the intensification of the biologization of industries,” says Holger Zinke, CEO of BRAIN, the motivation behind the research alliance. "Biological knowledge is the driving force of the bioeconomy and industrial biotechnology is one of its most important fields."

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