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Industrial Microbiology (IMB)

Welcome to the homepage of the Industrial Microbiology section.

Microorganisms are indispensable for the large-scale production of fermented food products, chemicals and biofuels. In the 21st century, the need to replace oil-based products by sustainable alternatives poses new scientific challenges to industrial microbiology research. At the same time, spectacular developments in genomics and synthetic biology offer unprecedented possibilities to study and engineer microorganisms.  

The Industrial Microbiology (IMB) section seeks to understand how micro-organisms perform in existing and novel industrial processes and, based on this understanding, to improve microbial performance and design new microbial processes.

Research in the IMB section is based on integration of quantitative physiology (systems biology) with molecular techniques (genomics, synthetic biology). Our infrastructure includes over 30 bioreactor set-ups for controlled cultivation, state-of-the-art molecular biology labs and an Affymetrix microarray set-up. Analysis of genome sequencing data is done in close collaboration with the Delft Bioinformatics group and metabolome analysis with the Bioprocess Technology Section. Our ‘pet’ microorganism is the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. However, over the years, we have worked on other organisms ranging from acetic acid bacteria to the antibiotic-producing fungus Penicillium chrysogenum.

Recent highlights from our research include the successful engineering of bakers’ yeast for the production of bioethanol from pentose sugars, which is now being commercialized by DSM, pioneering work on the physiology of bakers’ yeast at extremely low growth rates and our involvement in the Penicillium chrysogenum genome project.

In addition to collaborating with many academic partners in the Netherlands and abroad, the Industrial Microbiology group is involved in joint research projects with a number of major fermentation industries (including DSM, Amyris and Heineken).

The staff members of the Industrial Microbiology section are actively involved as teachers in the Delft-Leiden BSc and MSc programmes on Life Science and Technology. They are happy that many students choose to perform their research projects in our group. Together with our colleagues at the Cell Systems Engineering Section, we organize the yearly two-week Advanced Course on Microbial Physiology and Fermentation Technology. 

Group leader: Prof. Dr. Jack T. Pronk
Contact person for MSc and BSc projects: Dr. M.M.M. Bisschops

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