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TUMstudis: baker's yeast is synthetically converted

"We brew a beer whose color, taste and ingredients can be varied during the brewing process". The TUM's iGEM-Team has ambitious plans. At this year's biotech competition at the Boston MIT, the students want to pursue new paths in beer brewing. They are trying to modify baker's yeast in such a way that it can produce valuable substances naturally – on its own. Provided everything goes according to plan, the beer will comply with the Bavarian purity standard (Reinheitsgebot).


Jara Obermann, Martin Schappert und Maria Trumpfheller (v.l.n.r.)
von iGEM (Foto: Astrid Eckert)

Baker's yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae in Latin, is a production organism commonly employed in biotechnology. The team of TUM students will endeavor to modify it genetically so that it produces nutritionally valuable substances (especially ones that are normally extracted from plants) bio-synthetically, so they do not need to be extracted from other expensive ingredients to be added to food or beverages.

New approaches to the art of brewing
The team consists of 19 TUM students. Most of them are studying molecular biotechnology, but there are also computer scientists, mathematicians and brewers involved. Prof. Dr. Arne Skerra (Biological Chemistry) is providing support in scientific matters. The team is trying to combine traditional Weihenstephan brewing techniques with molecular biotechnology and innovative, up-and-coming research.

During the course of the iGEM project, promoters that can easily be regulated in different ways (ethanol content, light exposure etc.) will be combined with known bio-synthetic components and then cloned in yeast. The aim is to show how modern biotechnological methods are able to break new ground in the production of foods and beverages.

TUM team gold medal
iGEM ​​stands for "International Genetically Engineered Machine competition." The international competition in the field of synthetic biology was introduced at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), Boston, in 2003. It now has an international reputation.

Both familiar and newly devised genetic blocks ("BioBricks") are used to build up modular biological systems – usually in micro-organisms. More than 160 teams of student from all around the world took part last year. The TUM team won a gold medal for its project in the field of biophysics. It was one of the most successful German teams.

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