“All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas and playing around with things.”

– Stephanie Louise Kwolek

Research in the Haslinger lab at the University of Groningen focuses on the understanding and engineering of biosynthetic pathways in plants and microbes. Our goal is to engineer microbial cell factories to produce natural products with pharmaceutical applications. The three main lines of research are (1) the de novo genome sequencing of microbes inhabiting medicinal plants; (2) the computational mining of genome sequences for biosynthetic enzymes and pathways; and (3) the design and engineering of recombinant pathways in model organisms such as Escherichia coli.

We strive to generate greener sources for fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals and contribute to building a sustainable bio-based economy. Sustainability is not only the main motivator for our research but also the framework for how we perform our research. As scientists we minimize our greenhouse gas emissions and our environmental footprint by conserving water and energy, minimizing the use of single-use plastics and adhering to the principles of green chemistry.
The Haslinger lab aims to provide an inclusive and supportive environment for creative thinking and personal growth. We build upon each other’s strengths to achieve our goals and engage in the process each step along the way.

Genome sequencing.

We are interested in the internal microbiomes of medicinal plants, the so-called endophytic microbial communities. We study the composition of these communities in the context of the plant habitat; as well as the genomes of individual members of the community in order to explore their potential for secondary metabolite production.

Genome mining.

We are interested in identifying genes and pathways that can be used for in vitro enzymatic cascades and recombinant microbial cell factories. We explore computational approaches to pre-select candidates based on sequence motifs and genomic context in order to reduce the number of candidates for experimental screening while covering a wide sequence space.

Pathway engineering.

We strive to generate recombinant biosynthetic pathways for a more sustainable production of nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals. We develop and employ in vitro prototyping workflows to minimize the experimental workload and the use of resources such as growth media, chemicals and solvents for greener lab practices.

Open projects for MSc students

Genetic tools for filamentous fungi
Filamentous fungi are widely used in industry for the production of enzymes and
chemicals. The aim of this project is to characterize new genetic units
(promoters, terminators, marker genes, etc.) and use synthetic biology methods
to build novel multispecies expression plasmids. These plasmids will allow the
parallel reconstitution of entire biosynthetic pathways in common filamentous
fungal hosts for the identification and synthesis of new compounds.
Secondary metabolites from medicinal mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms are widely consumed in Asian countries because of their
high nutritional value and the health-promoting qualities of their metabolites. In
this project, we will mine the genome of several species of medicinal mushrooms
to identify the biosynthetic pathway involved in the synthesis of a class of
compounds with antiaging and neuroprotective properties.
New biocatalysts from the fungal kingdom
New genome sequences are being generated at an unprecedented rate, allowing
us to take a look into the biosynthetic potential of previously understudied
organisms. Among these, lichen-forming fungi are particularly interesting
because of their symbiotic association with algae and cyanobacteria. The aim of
the project is to mine the genome of lichen-forming fungi for enzymes with so far
uncharacterized activities, with the goal to identify novel biocatalysts.

Our funding sources

Excellence Award 2021 from the
Federation of European
Biochemical Societies (K. Haslinger)

several grants 2022 and 2023

start-up fund 2020,
FSE research grant 2022 (K. Haslinger)

personal fellowship (K. Haslinger)
H2020-MSCA-IF-2019 893122

personal fellowships (Ting He, Bo Peng
and Xiao Li)

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