Biotechnology is a key technology which can be used to feed the growing world population, save resources and improve the health of many millions of people. Bioeconomy entails the transition to a fossil-free economy. On 20 October 2022, renowned scientists and innovation drivers from business and startups gathered at this year’s PSP Conference at the Potsdam Science Park with the motto ”Biotechnology & bioeconomy – the obstacle course of the future” to discuss bioeconomy’s potential and success stories.
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As societies age, conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiac insufficiency are becoming ever more significant. At the same time, the need for research in fields such as eHealth or epigenetics is growing. Three universities in Brandenburg – the University of Potsdam, the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg and the Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane – have established a joint Health Sciences department to address these pressing issues. Managing Director Doctor Nathalie Dehne and Professor Notger Müller, Professor for degenerative and chronic diseases with a focus on physical activity, talk to us about the joint faculty, about why health sciences are essential and why the Potsdam Science Park is one if three ideal locations.
As a material for use in science, glass has many advantages. As well as being resistant to heat, cold and most acids, it is also fireproof, easy to clean and transparent. These qualities make it absolutely essential in science, particularly for lab work where glass flasks and cylinders are indispensable. In teaching and research, glass equipment needs to be constantly reused, adapted and repaired. This is where Cliff Janiszewski comes in, as a glass apparatus maker at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces – one of the more unusual professions at Potsdam Science Park.
We talk to Hubert Wiggering, who is not just in demand among the scientific community as an environmental expert but also recognized as an advisor by Germany’s politicians. An environmental scientist at the University of Potsdam, Professor Wiggering was formerly Secretary-General of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) as well as Director of the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF).
For many decades, micro-plastics remained a scarcely researched issue. But awareness is growing, as is the realization that we, too, ingest plastic particles through food and water. Hardly anyone can estimate the consequences. PD Dr. Harald Seitz from Fraunhofer IZI-BB and Dr. Susanne Baldermann from the IGZ dare to take a closer look. They research methods with which micro- and nano-plastics can be detected in plants. In doing so, they are doing real pioneering work – and pursuing a great goal.
Coatings protect materials from negative environmental influences. They prevent metals from rusting and wood from swelling. However, over 90 percent of coatings today are still based on synthetic petroleum products. That has negative consequences for the environment. Therefore, Dr. Christina Gabriel-Liebs has long been researching the possibilities of producing coatings from a sustainable raw material: starch. A true pioneer in this field, her products are highly promising and could revolutionise the coatings sector; making it more sustainable in the process.
Climate change is influencing global political, environmental and private decisions like no other issue. However, at universities, it often remains only a peripheral topic on specialised degree courses. Its wider implications are hardly investigated. The Climate, Earth, Water, Sustainability (CLEWS) degree at the University of Potsdam will change that. Starting in autumn 2021, students of this degree will be able to deepen their understanding of the climate system, water cycles and other natural processes on Earth. Andreas Kubatzki, coordinator of the study programme, is passionate about his topic. In our interview, he explains why Potsdam and the Berlin-Brandenburg region is an ideal setting for this course of study.
For over 20 years, snow and permafrost algae have been the specialty of Dr. Thomas Leya of the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology’s branch of Bioanalytics & Bioprocesses (IZI-BB) in the Potsdam Science Park. They contain many enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients that are used for food supplements and cosmetics. But their potential is far greater. For his research, the native of Schleswig-Holstein undertook expeditions to, among other places, Spitzbergen, and had to avoid more than one polar bear.
The Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology (MPI-MP), located in Potsdam Science Park, is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions. In February 2021 Prof. Dr. Claudia Köhler joined its senior management. As director of the department of reproductive biology and epigenetics, she has established an entirely new field of research in molecular plant physiology at the MPI-MP. In the interview, she explains how changes in the genetic activity of plants can occur without modifying the DNA itself, why she considers current legislation to worthy of improvement, and what potential she sees in Potsdam Science Park.
At the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in the Potsdam Science Park, Dr. Oren Moscovitz (Group Leader Biomolecular Systems) is researching novel antibodies to develop valuable new tools that target specific glycan structures on our cell membranes and help fight cancer. To do this, he receives special help from – Alpacas.
Since 2019 Dr. Kenta Kiuchi has been a group leader in the Numerical and Relativistic Astrophysics department at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in the Potsdam Science Park. Using complex simulations, he helps other researchers to detect gravitational waves of colliding neutron stars – and thus listen to the universe with ‘new ears’.
Katja Hanack is Professor of Immunotechnology at the University of Potsdam and is among the most renowned scientists worldwide in the field of research into antibodies. Thanks to her intensive research, she is now able to offer a comprehensive and innovative technology portfolio with which to produce antibodies quickly and effectively. With the aid of one of these technologies, it proved possible to reduce the period required for the production of monoclonal antibodies from twelve months to a mere three. The processes developed by her team thereby help establish new test systems and medicaments, not only in the battle against the Corona virus.
Corona tests are an important component of the measures aimed at containing the spreading of SARS-CoV-2. The standard test procedures do have their disadvantages, however. In a joint project between Fraunhofer IZI-BB and Fraunhofer IAP, a team headed by Dr. Cornelia Hettrich is working on possibilities to make a test procedure possible without the need for a smear.
Respiratory masks could soon be experiencing a minor revolution: it is said that, in the foreseeable future, they will kill off viruses on their surfaces already and be washable at 40°C. It is on this precise aspect that Dr. Katja Uhlig and Dr. Sebastian Kersting of Fraunhofer IZI-BB and Dr. Erik Wischerhoff of Fraunhofer IAP are doing research in the Potsdam Science Park. But the combination of an antiviral surface and cleanability presents a complex challenge to the research work.
In the Potsdam Science Park, institutes and companies are working on treatments and solutions to further contain the spread of coronavirus or to accelerate the cure. Dr Ruben R. Rosencrantz heads the “Life Science and Bioprocesses” research area and the “Biofunctionalised Materials and (Glyco)Biotechnology” department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP. The research area is involved in four initiatives in the fight against COVID-19. The approaches and application opportunities are extremely promising.
In the DFG (German Research Council) research group entitled “Cosmic Sense”, Prof. Sascha Oswald is working on methods to determine soil moisture based on neutron density. This forms the basis for all agriculture and forestry and plays an important role in climate research. In this conversation, we talk about the desire to set new impulses in environmental protection.
For many years, Prof. Ulrike Lucke has been a sought-after expert in the field, is a member of the board and spokesperson for numerous committees, gives lectures and publishes scientific articles. Since the coronavirus pandemic, things have changed. Suddenly, a topic that she has been researching for more than 20 years, but which was previously treated as a marginal issue in politics and society, has come into the limelight: E-learning.
Physicist Prof. Safa Shoaee is one of the world’s most renowned researchers in the field of organic solar cells. After studying in London and Queensland, she received the Sofja Kovalevskaja Prize in 2016 when she began her work at the University of Potsdam and has since been conducting research in the Potsdam Science Park. With Dieter Neher, professor of soft matter physics, she was able to produce the world’s most efficient 1 cm2 organic solar cells here. In this conversation, we talk about green technologies and the way to make a career in physics as a woman.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Markus Antonietti is Director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and the first German Chemist to have received the worldwide research prizes of the European Research Council (ERC) three times in his lifetime so far. The exceptional researcher received one of the highest European research prizes, the Synergy Grant, for a sustainable battery and, together with his team, prevailed against 440 international research groups. In the interview, he reveals why electric cars are not that important and what the true social vision behind his research is.
The Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPI-KG) is known for its outstanding interdisciplinary work. At the location in the Potsdam Science Park, some of the institute’s staff have succeeded in pursuing special careers, such as that of Charlett Wenig. We present the story of a designer who set out to become a materials researcher.
At the University of Potsdam, innovation and new ideas are not foreign words. So, it is only logical that at the Golm Campus the first Brandenburg University School is currently being designed in the “Innovative Hochschule Potsdam” (in English: innovative university Potsdam) project. But what is a university school? Why is Potsdam-Golm the right place? What could this school bring to the Berlin-Brandenburg region? We spoke with Prof. Dr. Nadine Spörer, Professor of Psychological Primary School Pedagogy at the University of Potsdam, to better understand the plans and thoughts behind a future university school. As the head of the “Innovative University of Applied Sciences Potsdam” project, she explained to us details of the planning as well as the motives for this new school.
About half of the displays used in smartphones today use OLEDs. In Potsdam Science Park, Dr. Christine Boeffel is working on further improving the printing processes for these fascinating light-emitting diodes. She is dedicating her research to improving precisely this printing process for the production of OLEDs.
Since 2015, Prof. Dr. Alexander Böker has been Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP and at the same time the Chair of Polymer Materials and Polymer Technology. A short portrait of an institute director whose scientists are researching, among other things, materials for a more sustainable world.
His research has been published in over 550 articles and his work has been awarded more than 35 prizes. Without doubt, Prof. Dr. Peter H. Seeberger is one of the most distinguished chemists in Germany. An interview with the man who has headed the “Biomolecular Systems” department at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces since 2009.
Greenshift Labs has not yet a product on the market, but two very dedicated scientists who develop solutions towards a sustainable economy. We met with the founders Dr. Arren Bar-Even and Dr. Ryan Guterman and talked with them about oversaturated markets, new ways of producing commodities and how to become independent from agriculture.
Carbon fibers are considered to be extremely strong and light, which is why they’ve become indispensable for lightweight construction. They‘re used in the aerospace industry, among others. Dr. Jens Erdmann at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Potsdam-Golm is researching how carbon fibers can be obtained from renewable raw materials.
The SARS-CoV2-pandemic has raised our awareness of the specific needs of groups that face greater risks from the virus. Autoimmune diseases affect 5-8 percent of the population. At Potsdam Science Park, Rodos Biotarget GmbH is getting closer to an innovative new treatment approach for pinpoint healing of infected cells.