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The Biocatalysis group led by associate professor Dr Francesco Mutti at the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences has been awarded a €200,000 post-doctoral fellowship grant as part of the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. It will enable Dr Natalia Kwiatos to work for two years on the design and development of a yeast platform for the synthesis of chiral amines through enzymatic cascades. This will pave the way towards a green and robust technology to produce high-value chemicals.
Dr Natalia Kwiatos obtained her PhD from Lodz University of Technology (Poland) in enzymatic biotechnology in 2019. She has been a postdoc at the International Centre for Research on Innovative Biobased Materials (Lodz) and currently works at the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw). She will join the Biocatalysis group early 2025. Photo: HIMS.

In her research, Natalia Kwiatos will develop a novel, modular approach for the conversion of natural amino acids into enantiopure alpha-chiral amines and aminoalcohols. This will provide the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and fine chemical industries with a green and robust technology to use renewable feedstock for producing these high-value chemicals.

It is a challenging project that has been on Mutti's wish list for a couple of years, he says. 'I could never find the right opportunity and collaborator. I am really happy now that the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions have made all this possible.' Kwiatos is looking forward to working in Amsterdam and says she is excited about opportunities that come along with the Marie Curie fellowship. 'It is a big challenge and a big responsibility. Thank you!'

Baker's yeast as a chemical factory

Francesco Mutti has been the group leader of the Biocatalysis group at UvA since 2015. Currently, his main research interests are on the development of biocatalytic cascades for the sustainable synthesis of chemicals, enzyme discovery and engineering, continuous flow biocatalysis, biocatalysis in vivo and bio-electrochemistry. Photo: HIMS

The proposed conversion technology will start with L-α-amino acids that can be sustainably produced from renewable feedstock through fermentation. For their conversion into high-value chemicals, Kwiatos will develop in vivo biocatalytic cascades using Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the host organism. Commonly known as brewer's yeast or baker's yeast, this microorganism is genetically well-known, is suitable for large scale operation, and will allow to obtain higher productivity than using bacterial strains.

Kwiatos will construct a library of integrative plasmids expressing the enzymes. She will transform these to S. cerevisiae to obtain a yeast cell factory that will then be optimized both on the genetic level and on the bioprocess level. She aims to achieve industrially viable productivity parameters and, resulting from the modular approach, a wide applicability of the proposed yeast factory.

See also

HIMS Biocat research group