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The ChitoBioEngineering project convenes an international, interdisciplinary, intersectorial consortium of top quality European scientists, collaborating with the aim to develop biotechnological ways of producing chitosan oligomers with known and defined architecture. The chitosans so produced will be used to develop reliable applications for a number of sensitive and promising markets where today's chemically produced chitosans have so far failed to succeed. The project is supported by generous grant from the Industrial Biotechnology Initiative of the 6th Framework Research Program of the European Union. Prof. Dr. Bruno Moerschbacher from the University of Münster in Germany, the coordinator of the ChitoBioEngineering project, explains that so far, the wound-healing, immuno-modulating, and anti-microbial properties of chitosans have not been exploited appropriately, at least partly due to the random distribution of acetyl groups of today's chitosans which are produced using chemical means from shrimp shell waste chitin. He is convinced: "The known and defined patterns of acetylation of the biotechnologically produced chitosans will greatly improve their reliability and performance in biomedical applications." The German group has already isolated and characterised a number of variants of the chitin synthesizing and deacetylating enzymes required for the enzymatic chitosan bioengineering. These will now be optimised using enyzme engineering in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Antoni Planas from the University Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain. Optimising yields by metabolic engineering will be the task of Prof. Dr. Wim Soetardt from the University of Ghent in Belgium, who will also, in his BioBase Europe Pilot Plant, upscale production to generate sufficient quantities of the novel chitosans for a rigorous performance assessement by Katja Richter from the company Heppe Medical Chitosan, and her extensive network of commercial chitosan users.


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