About the PhotoBioCat Project

The pharmaceutical and chemical industries provide a large part of the materials of our everyday life, but also belong to the most polluting industries. Processes can still be found to produce up to 100-fold more waste than product. This waste challenge is particularly true for redox reactions, in which harmful reductants and oxidants are used. Here, biocatalysis offers a clean, sustainable solution.  PhotoBioCat aims to drive selective enzymatic reactions with visible light as energy source. Enzymatic redox reactions need electron transfer to and from external molecules, requiring costly cofactors and sacrificial co-substrates. This project aims to develop sustainable, light-driven biocatalytic systems, and to prove the usefulness in a commercial environment. The ultimate goal is to use catalytic water-splitting to drive a wide range of attractive synthetic reactions.

Overview and content structure of the doctoral program

PhotoBioCat trains 12 ESRs at the interface of biology, chemistry, and engineering. The graduates will master the manipulation of biological systems and the transfer of biological elements into a chemical or technical environment. Objective is a solid specific knowledge in one discipline from an independent research project combined with a good overview of the two others obtained in secondments and training workshops. Moreover, Europe’s future leaders should be able to convert ideas into innovations and to overcome all the hurdles (technical and societal) on the way from the initial idea to a successful commercialization. This poses high requirements regarding flexibility, creativity and the ability to think outside the box as well as the anticipation of industrial needs.

The main learning objectives of PhotoBioCat are the following skills:

  1. Learn: Obtain relevant expertise in theoretical scientific concepts and experimental techniques, as well as initiation to industrial settings. The highly interdisciplinary character of the network underlines the need for all participants to acquire a solid knowledge-basis throughout a learning phase. The expectation is that good candidates bring advanced knowledge in one of the five disciplinary fields (photosynthesis, biocatalysis, photocatalysis, synthetic biology, and process engineering). However, our program is broader. Soft skill training spans from project management to ethics, gender awareness, to learn innovative digitalization strategies for Industry 4.0.
  2. Teach: Explain science using the tools of Science 2.0. This phase combines training in dissemination activity (video, web site, etc.), management activity (organization, co-supervision and pedagogical practice for successful lab course), and interaction with audience of varied level of expertise. The teaching phase serves for reflection of the acquired knowledge, and is a step towards its active utilization. Moreover, it is an intense training in transferable skills such as an open mind-set and team-work.
  3. Create: Provide ESRs with capacity of developing new ideas and imagining means to implement them in respect of ELSI (Ethical, Legal and Social Implications) approach. The focus will be threefold:

    • create high quality publication of scientific results
    • establish interaction and communication with scientists from different fields (biology, chemistry, engineering) and different sectors (academia, industry and non-governmental organizations);
    • anticipate potential challenges (gender equality) in the early stages of planning, bridge the innovation gap between academia and industry, translate an idea from research to business, in other words develop entrepreneurial spirit.