The Plant biotechnologies research group develops new concepts, products and services based on integrative biology and biotechnological approaches for the valorisation of plant biomass as feedstock of molecules for renewable industrial products and the green biotech sector.
The use of renewable resources to decrease our dependence on petroleum-based products is a top-ranking goal in the current bioeconomy and a primary objective of the Luxembourg smart-cities action plan. Plant lignocellulosic biomass is a feedstock providing macromolecules and chemical building blocks for use in e.g. the manufacture of "green" composites. Researchers are engaged in understanding how plant lignocellulosic biomass is synthesized and deposited and how its properties can be modulated/improved via biotechnological strategies, so that specific industrial needs can be met.
In the industrial landscape, special attention is given to plant cellulosic fibres: they are long, strong and durable, their application potential exceeds far beyond the currently dominant application in textiles. Compared to man-made fibres, plant fibres are cheaper, raise no environmental concern and they are used in important sectors like the automotive industry.
The research group is developing a broad spectrum of activities linked with the engineering of plant fibres. Among the goals are the addition of new functionalities and the modification of the fibre physico-chemical properties. These modifications of the surface and cell wall properties of fibres will foster their use in green composites. With this, researchers aim to optimize the use of plant-sourced fibres in different industrial sectors, including the automotive and the construction sector.
Plants produce a wide array of secondary metabolites to protect themselves against various environmental constraints. These small molecules have biological activities of high interest for the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and agro-chemical industries. The research team applies functional genomics approaches to elucidate their biosynthetic pathway in planta. Metabolic engineering combined with comprehensive chemical characterization techniques are then used to develop plants and plant cell cultures for the sustainable production of known and novel high-value molecules with new or superior biological activities.
LIST's researchers also promote plant genetic diversity and underutilised plant species and valorise agro-industrial by-products as a source of commercially-relevant molecules. This includes the upcycling of by-products or biomass waste into valuable products, such as the transformation into biochar that can be applied as soil amendment on degraded or contaminated soils, resulting in a cycle of value creation.
Finally, covering the whole innovation chain, the research team provides sustainable and forefront technical solutions to optimise production, extraction, and isolation processes of these functional ingredients.