Category Archive News


UNLOCK Press Release

Wageningen and Delft have launched the new research facility UNLOCK to study mixed microbial cultures extensively. Various sub-areas of research will be integrated through UNLOCK. This development has been eagerly awaited by researchers studying mixed microbial cultures. This integration will make significant scientific and societal breakthroughs possible. The NWO’s approval will make a 14.5 million euro funding available for the next decade. Ten million euros are earmarked for the Wageningen contribution. A total of 24.8 million euros will be invested in UNLOCK.

Lead petitioner, Prof. Hauke Smidt is delighted at the approval. ‘This is fantastic. UNLOCK opens up entirely new perspectives for the discovery of new micro-organisms and ground-breaking research on mixed microbial cultures’.

UNLOCKing Microbial Diversity for Society

In UNLOCK, Wageningen and Delft have joined forces towards full integration of all relevant fields of expertise in four complementary platforms:

The Biodiscovery platform (WUR-Microbiology) allows its users to discover and characterize new micro-organisms. In addition, there is a processing unit that allows for fully automated unlocking of biological samples for biomolecular analysis.

The Modular bioreactor platform (WUR-Environmental Technology) facilitates research for sustainable solutions to environmental issues, such as the degradation of (micro) pollutants, sustainable energy generation and reclaiming resources from complex waste streams.

• With the Parallel Bioreactor platform (TUD-Biotechnology), users can conduct dozens of experiments in bioreactors simultaneously for comparative analysis of how process variables affect system development.

The FAIR data platform (WUR-Systems & Synthetic Biology) takes care of the storage, processing and interpretation of large quantities of data flowing from the experimental systems in a cloud-based infrastructure based on the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable).


MycoSynVac Press Release

Designing multi-purpose vaccines

Scientists from the five year EU funded project MycoSynVac reported their findings and successes at a final meeting in Brussels. The project drew on cutting edge biotechnology to explore three important GOALS:

  • TRANSFORM a living bacteria (Mycoplasma pneumoniae) into a vaccine chassis
  • APPLY this vaccine chassis against bacterial diseases in livestock animals
  • CONTRIBUTE to the reduction of antibiotics administered to farm animals

A well-rounded approach to science featuring ethics and communication

The project consortium consisted of 8 partners (including Wageningen University & Research, SMEs and MSD Animal Health, formerly Intervet) from 7 European countries, working hand-in-hand within a multi-facetted project that included new bioengineering and computational tools and methods, an ethical framework, and creative communication ventures. Researchers took part in internal risk assessment and ethics workshops, went out to meet interested members of the public at science cafés, and joined efforts to bring the project in a playful and educational manner to children and young adults. As well, the project was featured in the media of several European countries and was invited to present at a high-level conference in the European Parliament.

Successes across labs and offices

Each project partner contributed with tools, methods and approaches to the overall success of MYCOSYNVAC. To list a few examples, partners have:

  • Engineered a new set of genetic tools to incorporate on/off switches in Mycoplasma for better and safer vaccines, showing good results in the lab and currently being analysed in vivo.
  • Developed genome-scale metabolic, dynamic and whole-cell kinetic models
    of Mycoplasma and designed an open access modelling software tool (DMPy). The computer simulations revealed important bottlenecks and lead to crucial improvements for the large-scale production of vaccines
  • Developed new methods that allow designing Mycoplasma that is not pathogenic, and to integrate entire ‘genetic circuits’ in the organism.
  • Identified the surface proteins of several strains of Mycoplasma (to which the immune system reacts) and utilized those for future vaccine designs.
  • Presented the project to the public across Europe, produced a short documentary film on Youtube and developed a free educational online and mobile game called “Battle for Cattle”, along with self-learning and teaching materials.
  • Developed a new genome engineering called MydelOrbit that allows fast knock in and knock out in any genome of interest, which may be considered for future use also in human therapy.
  • Significantly increased an understanding of Mycoplasma, and developed novel technologies and results under consideration for their potential in developing novel veterinary vaccines

Wageningen University & Research played a key role in this project: “We used sophisticated bioinformatics and mathematical modeling approaches to assist on the design of the vaccines, cultivation media, biosafety and production process. It is the combination of these approaches with genome engineering and synthetic biology techniques that enabled us to advance quickly and to contribute to animal welfare.”, said Vitor Martins dos Santos, leader of the computational program in the project and Chair of Systems & Synthetic Biology at the Wageningen University & Research.

“Global challenges like antibiotic resistance are simply too big to tackle without investing in new ideas. Our work in re-engineering Mycoplasma is an example of the exciting opportunities cutting-edge synthetic biology techniques can fight the overuse of antibiotics in pigs and cattle. As well as farm animals, our work may one day combat human afflictions like pneumonia, which kills one in ten people that catch it in hospitals.” said Luis Serrano, project leader and director of the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain.

For more information, please contact: Laboratory of Systems & Synthhetic Biology – Press Office, Willemijn Ramondt; T: +31 317 482105; E-mail:

MycoSynVac was a 5 year project that received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 634942.


Maria Suarez Diez promoted to Associate Professor

Last Friday, the 27th of March, we received de excellent news that our colleague Maria Suarez Diez has been promoted to Associate Professor.

Many congratulations for Maria from all the colleagues of Systems and Synthetic Biology.


iGEM 2019

On the 4th of November Wageningen became second overall (for the third time after 2014 and 2016).

Plus they won the prize for the best Food and Nutrition project and best Poster. Besides this they were nominated for best Wiki, best Presentation, and best Public Education and Engagement.

There were 353 teams from over the whole world. All in all a great result.

The students and the team did an excellent job, not just technically, but also in terms of societal engagement & human practices. This student challenge nicely reflects the spirit of the WUR and motivated substantially quite a number of other students, as its a great education/training exercise.


Launch of an industrial biotechnology infrastructure strategy

The overarching aim of the infrastructure project IBISBA (Industrial Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology Accelerator, is to provide a novel environment that will accelerate the production of knowledge and the applications in industrial biotechnology. Building on scientific and technological excellence and synergy with industry partners, IBISBA will generate proofs of concept prototypes, new methods and standards and create an environment for the training of tomorrow’s industrial biotechnology professionals.

The overarching aim of the infrastructure project IBISBA (Industrial Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology Accelerator, is to provide a novel environment that will accelerate the production of knowledge and the applications in industrial biotechnology. Building on scientific and technological excellence and synergy with industry partners, IBISBA will generate proofs of concept prototypes, new methods and standards and create an environment for the training of tomorrow’s industrial biotechnology professionals.

IBISBA entered into a preliminary building phase in 2014 and has since been the focus of collective planning and concept building, performed by fourteen partner organizations, located in nine European member states. In 2017, French government authorities working with the IBISBA consortium submitted the IBISBA candidature to ESFRI. This candidature received strong political support of Finland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Greece and was backed by leading European research organizations in Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Recognition of the importance of the IBISBA project by ESFRI is an important step in the project’s trajectory, since it confirms the scientific excellence and the strategic pertinence of the concept. Moreover, ESFRI recognition opens up a new development that will allow IBISBA to create services that aim to accelerate the preindustrial R&D phases of bioprocess development, thus supporting industrial biotechnology and promoting its role as a key enabling technology of the bioeconomy.

Industrial biotechnology, a cornerstone of the bioeconomy

It is widely recognized that Industrial Biotechnology is a Key Enabling Technology for the bioeconomy transition. This is because biocatalysts (enzymes, microorganisms, algae, ) are exquisitely adapted for the conversion of biobased resources into a wide range of commercial products. Moreover, unlike chemical catalysts, workhorses of the petrochemical industry for the conversion of fossil-resources, biocatalysts handle oxygen-rich biomolecules, operate in aqueous conditions and in moderate (in terms of temperature and pH) reactions conditions. Furthermore, when used alone or in synergy with chemical catalysis, industrial biotechnology holds the potential to address many of society’s needs, converting biobased raw material into fuels, chemical building blocks, materials, cosmetics and pharmaceutical ingredients, and providing solutions, for example, for recycling, nutrition and transport.

The founding partners of IBISBA

The origins of the IBISBA infrastructure project are diverse and draw upon Europe’s rich landscape of scientific and technological infrastructure focused on industrial biotechnology. IBISBA also draws upon the experience of longstanding players in Industrial biotechnology, developing R&D in systems and synthetic biology, and in bioprocess and chemical engineering. Many of the partners are universities, but others are RTOs and research organizations. Together they combine a wide range of knowledge, significant infrastructure capability and a track record of successful synergy with private sector partners.

Wageningen University & Research is a driver in R&D in industrial biotechnology

UNLOCK – Part of the IBISBA infrastructure node in The Netherlands (headed by the Wageningen University & Research, WUR) builds upon the NWO-supported facility UNLOCK, which provides a unique platform for breakthroughs in the application of mixed microbial cultures. It thereby provides the means to solve some of the major societal challenges facing food, bio-resource utilization and sustainable production of plug-in commodity chemicals by the biotech industry, safety and production, human, animal and environmental health. UNLOCK facilitated to experiment innovative schemes involving public-private partnership and to launch several major R&D projects in the area of industrial biotechnology. Two of these are EmPowerPutida and SafeChassis.

EmPowerputida– An international consortium of 5 academic and 5 industrial partners (including large companies such as BASF and Lucite) joined forces to develop, through Synthetic Biology, a robust platform for the generation of versatile, high performance microbial chassis directed for the tailored, sustainable biotechnological production of bulk and specialty chemicals. 

SafeChassis –This project deals with assessment of risk and develops technical safeguards to limit environmental, health and safety effects of such industrial microbial platforms. The project is unique in engaging with a broader-than-typical array of stakeholders at the front end of the project and its embedding in a strong Research Responsible Innovation framework.

Wageningen University & Research and IBISBA

WUR, together with a large variety of industrial, academic and governmental stakeholders has been long engaged in industrial biotechnology for the design, implementation and upscaling of many bioprocesses. These include tailored and sustainable production of biopolymers, organic acids, biofuels, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and biomaterials. Altogether, it has been contributing strongly to various Sustainable Development Goals (), in particular regarding to a shift from petrochemical-based to a biobased economy, industrial innovation, efficient use of resources,  clean environment and health and well-being. Through the infrastructure it provides for research and development, IBISBA will strongly boost the contributions of Wageningen University & Research to these goals.

See also launch ESFRI.


Edoardo Saccenti won the Kowalski Prize 2017 for Best Application Paper in Statistics/Chemometrics

Covariances Simultaneous Component Analysis: a new method within a framework for modeling covariances

 Published in the Journal of Chemometrics (


The motivation for the Prize is that the paper represents “an important work in the field of

-omics with a significant likelihood that COVSCA will become widely used” and that “has the potential to

find wide application in metabolomics and systems biology