Obituary - Dr. Nour Eddine El Gueddari
Office - Project assistance
Young Research Group Leaders
Our research covers a broad range of aspects, all aiming at understanding molecular structure-function relationships and cellular modes of action of chitosans and at developing reliable applications of these most promising functional biopolymers, in particular for sustainable agriculture. Systematically building up this research portfolio over the past 25 years has only been possible because of the expertise and dedication of Dr. Nour Eddine El Gueddari and the many students, doctoral candidates and post-doctoral researchers he supervised. The legacy of Nouri’s achievements was taken on by three post-doctoral researchers who took over responsibilities for different aspects of our research, Dr. Ratna Singh for Chitosan Bioinformatics, Dr. Stefan Cord-Landwehr for Chitosan Bioanalytics, and Dr. Carolin Richter for Chitosan Bioactivities. Together, we are building on what we have achieved so far, continuing to venture into new and even broader fields of chitosan research and applications.
Dr. Stefan Cord-Landwehr studied Biosciences and Biotechnology at the University of Münster. He joined our group for the first time in 2009 for his Bachelor project in which he developed assays for the detailed analysis of a recombinant chitin deacetylase, including first steps towards enzymatic-mass spectrometric fingerprinting. During his Master project, he then identified and characterised the first modular chitin deacetylase, PesCDA, which to this day is one of the workhorses of our chitosan bioengineering. During his subsequent doctoral project which was embedded in our EU project Nano3Bio and for which he received the Braconnot price of the European Chitin Society in 2017, he established our mass spectrometric chitosan analysis, including quantitative mass spectrometric sequencing of chitosan oligomers even in complex mixtures and enzymatic-mass spectrometric fingerprinting analyses of chitosan polymers as well as reverse fingerprinting for the in depth characterisation of the subsite specificities and preferences in chitosan hydrolysing enzymes. With these developments and the projects of other students which he supervised, we are currently probably among the world leading groups in the structural analysis of chitosans. Stefan is also responsible for our service unit ChitoProf which offers structural analyses of chitosans to scientists from Academia and Industry all over the world.
Beyond Nano3Bio, Stefan has been involved in the EU project ChitoBioEngineering, the BMBF-funded CuChi-BCA and F2F projects, and the BMEL-funded project FunChi. Currently, Stefan is responsible for the bioanalytics part of the BMBF-funded smartBioS project aiming to develop novel biopesticides based on enzymatically modified chitosan oligomers. He also took over responsibility for the BMBF-funded lignoLIPP project aiming to add value to lipid-producing fungi by isolation of the chitin and chitosan from their cell walls. He heads the Chitosan Bioanalytics section of our group, supporting the whole team in structural chitosan analyses, including the biochemical characterisation of chitin and chitosan modifying enzymes. He will also be in charge of the new ion mobility mass spectrometer which we were recently granted.
Dr. Carolin Richter studied Biology at the University of Münster. She joined our group for the first time in 2003 for her Diploma (= Master) thesis in which she investigated potential pathogenicity factors of the fungal wheat pathogen Septoria tritici, i.a. establishing one- and two-dimensional zymography techniques for a broad range of hydrolytic enzymes. For her doctoral project, she opted for a different subject, establishing the highly successful research thread on polyphenoloxidases, a presumed resistance factor of dandelion, a plant which almost never develops disease. For many years and several doctoral candidates following her, this ‘PPO-group’ has pioneered molecular genetic and biochemical methods and concepts for our lab. Later, interspersed into her family leaves, she coordinated the first Indo-German International Research Training Group MCGS between the Universities of Münster and Hyderabad, took the first steps in our enzyme engineering of chitin deacetylases, and worked for a scientific communication company. Finally, she took over responsibility for our growing portfolio of bioassays to quantify biological activities of chitosans towards microorganism and plants, including the promotion of plant growth and development as well as the induction of disease resistance and stress tolerance.
Beyond the PPO project and MCGS, Caro has been involved in the EU project ChitoBioEngineering and the BMBF-funded project CuChi-BCA. Currently, Caro is responsible for the bioactivities part of the BMBF-funded smartBioS project aiming to develop novel biopesticides based on enzymatically modified chitosan oligomers. She also took over responsibility for the final stages of the BMWi-funded nanoControl project aiming to develop chitosan-based nanosystems as full process controls in medical diagnostic kits. She heads the Chitosan Bioactivities section of our group, supporting the whole team in functional chitosan analyses. Supported by a NRW start-up grant and jointly with our alumna Dr. Sruthi Sreekumar, she is also involved in the preparation of founding her own biotech start-up, greEnCAP-technologies, to transfer their results from the lab to the market.
Dr. Ratna Singh studied Biology and obtained her Master in Bioinformatics at the University of Allahabad in India. She also obtained an advanced Master diploma funded by Indo-Italian Government Scholarship at the Molecular Biology Center, University of Torino, Italy. She obtained her PhD from University of Torino on a topic related to computer aided drug design. She joined our group in 2012 in the framework of the Indo-German International Research Training Group MCGS as a bioinformatics post-doc. She supported all the projects of our team by in silico analyses of enzymes and their interaction with their substrates, involving but not limited to chitin and chitosan modifying enzymes. The substrate docking and molecular dynamics studies which she introduced to our group are guiding the enzyme engineering approaches of our team, currentlyplacing us among the leading labs in chitin/chitosan enzymology, in particular regarding chitin deacetylases.
Beyond MCGS, Ratna has been involved in the EU projects PolyModE, ChitoBioEngineering, and Nano3Bio as well as the BMBF-funded smartBioS and the BMWi-funded nanoControl projects. Currently, Ratna is leading the BMBF-funded project Bio-Fun which she conceptualized, aiming to develop novel inhibitors of chitin synthases and chitin deacetylases as antifungal agents for agriculture and biomedicine. She heads the Chitosan Bioinformatics section of our group, supporting the whole team in in silico analyses of chitin and chitosan modifying enzymes and their interactions e.g. with substrates. She established the pipeline for RNAseq and microbiome data analysis and is now responsible to guide the data analyses in our transcriptomics and soil microbiome studies.