In the lab: Driving advances in biochemical industries

Published on 24/01/2024

Bioactive compounds derived from plants are the subject of numerous research projects. Indeed, these compounds offer high added value for many industrial sectors such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals or biocontrol. The extraction of these compounds poses unique challenges that require precise methods and techniques.

The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) has emerged as a pioneering force in this field. Housed in the Greentech Innovation Centre, LIST's groundbreaking bioreactor platform takes centre stage. This state-of-the-art facility not only spearheads large-scale prototypes and demonstrators, but also has the distinctive ability to raise technological maturity levels (TRL). In so doing, LIST's bioreactors open up new horizons for the advancement of sustainable technologies, marking an important step in the ongoing quest to exploit the potential of bioactive compounds in plants.

Harnessing the power of plant cell suspension cultures

At the heart of LIST's bioreactor capabilities lies the Plant Molecular Farming research group, which harnesses the power of plant cell suspension cultures. These cultures provide a safe and efficient means for the mass production of specialty molecules and proteins. Through high-throughput mass spectrometry-based biodiscovery metabolomics, researchers meticulously screen the phytochemistry of their production, extracting compounds from plants with applications in cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and agro-chemical industries.

The group's focus extends beyond conventional plant sources, promoting the valorization of plant genetic diversity and upcycling agro-industrial by-products like brewery residual biomass and apple/grape pomaces. Notably, multi-purpose and underutilized crops, such as Cannabis sativa and Urtica dioica, are studied for their potential as sources of fibers and phytochemicals.

To learn more about finding an optimal method for exploiting plant metabolites, read the FNR article featuring Diego Ríos Salgado Bioprocess engineer working on the Biotechnologies and Environmental Analytics Platform at LIST.

Bioreactors: from lab-scale to pilot-scale

The Plant Molecular Farming research group boasts a specific expertise in conducting plant production in bioreactors. With a diverse set of over 30 bioreactors, ranging from lab-scale (1-10L) to pilot-scale (up to 300L), the group utilizes this technology for the production of high-added-value molecules and proteins. This approach marks a significant advancement in plant cellular farming, providing a scalable and efficient solution for specialty molecule and protein production.

The bioreactor platform at LIST, with its capacity ranging from 1 to 300 liters, is unparalleled in the Greater Region. This cutting-edge infrastructure enables the implementation of large-scale prototypes and demonstrators. What's more, it offers space for collaborative laboratories with industrial partners, fostering innovation and research collaboration.

The state-of-the-art facilities for environmental biotechnologies research provide a unique platform for partners and researchers to develop solutions from laboratory to industrial scale. The sprawling 1,500 m² surface area of the Greentech Innovation Centre signifies LIST's commitment to creating an environment conducive to cutting-edge research and technological advancement in the pursuit of a sustainable future.

Discover more about LIST's Greentech Innovation Centre.

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Dr Jean-François HAUSMAN
Dr Jean-François HAUSMAN
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