LOEWE-TBG enters the second phase

The LOEWE-TBG project of the state of Hesse continues for another three years

December 07, 2021

The Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts (HMWK) has officially announced: LOEWE-TBG will receive further support in a second funding phase from 2022 to 2024 in the amount of 15.6 million euros plus 2.6 million euros for construction measures. The programme advisory board was impressed by the excellent evaluation results. With the department of Helge Bode, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology are also involved in the program.

Biodiversity as a source of biological resources

Numerous pharmaceutical drugs are derivatives of bacterial natural products. Prof. Helge Bode's department uses molecular methods to identify novel substances more quickly or to generate novel derivatives.

Biodiversity is the result of 3.5 billion years of evolution and one of the most complex phenomena on earth. The LOEWE Center for Translational Biodiversity Genomics focuses on the genetic basis of biodiversity with the aim of making it accessible for basic and applied research. By sequencing and studying genomic variation across the tree of life, researchers hope to better understand the origin and functional adaptations of diversity from genes to ecosystems (comparative genomics). The data address the societal need for knowledge in applied areas, such as the genomic basis of biologically active substances (Natural Product Genomics), and the sustainable use and management of biological resources (Genomic Biomonitoring; Functional Environmental Genomics).  To this end, the project aims to provide genomic resources for applied research, for example on sustainable bioeconomy or nature and species conservation.

For LOEWE-TBG, the approval of the funding means the great opportunity to be able to continue the previous research at a very high level and also to make the results available to the field of applied research.

Project team at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology

Prof. Dr. Helge Bode's laboratory group started at the Institute for Goethe University Frankfurt and now continues under the roof of the Max Planck Institute. The team focuses on the identification and functional analysis of microbial natural products.

Numerous clinically used drugs such as antibiotics or anti-cancer and immunosuppressive agents are produced by bacteria as natural products or secondary metabolites. Although these natural products are important for our healthcare system, we hardly know how the bacteria produce them or which other microbial natural products could yet be identified and used clinically. Research subjects of the Bode Department are bacteria that are associated with (nematodes) as well as insects in their natural habitat. They can be genetically manipulated and cultivated without their nematode host. Most importantly, they produce a variety of natural products, including peptides, using non-ribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS).These can be used like a building block system to generate new derivatives from existing natural products.  

The TBG subproject of the AG Bode focuses on the development of molecular methods with the objective to identify novel secondary metabolites faster and in high throughput. In addition, the involved biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) will be recombined to produce novel natural products. A prerequisite for this work are high-quality genomes of the bacterial producers: Only they allow manipulations to the required extent. The work of the team in LOEWE-TBG includes the identification and structural characterization of the natural products, the manipulation of the bacterial genomes using synthetic biology methods, mass spectrometry, biochemistry, and molecular microbiology.

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