Optimised polyphenols: health-promoting substances from the bioreactor

GO-Bio 6 – Dr. Ulrich Rabausch – Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Hamburg – Klein Flottbek Biocentre


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Recipient: University of Hamburg
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.08.2014 - 28.02.2018, 2.540.217 Euro)


Quite literally, polyphenols are on everybody’s lips. These secondary plant substances, which are known for their health promoting effects, can be found in wine, tea or cocoa, among other products. Polyphenols are associated with a variety of effects, from stimulatory to protective (antioxidant), as well as regulatory (anti-inflammatory). They can even protect against cancer. Ulrich Rabausch and his team of biotechnologists at the University of Hamburg’s Klein Flottbek Biocentre are working on the optimisation of these molecules for eventual use in cosmetic products, foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals.

The team has developed a biotechnological method that utilises glycosylation to improve the functionality of polyphenols. Here, the targeted addition of sugar chains to the aromatic compounds has a positive influence on efficacy, stability, solubility and bioavailability. Rabausch’s team has reprogrammed bacterial cells to enable them to produce a range of enzymes in the bioreactor. In turn, these enzymes can be used in the specific and tailored attachment of various sugar appendages to polyphenol molecules.

In the first phase of GO-Bio, the founding team is planning to expand and optimise the platform technology, which goes by the name of GLYCONIC. Alongside, the method will adapted for the production of larger product volumes. Cooperation with industrial partners is envisaged already during the first phase of GO-Bio. Thereby, the researchers will be focused on the production of specific aromatic and cosmetically active substances. The subsequently developed glycosylated natural products are of interest to the cosmetics and food industries, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturers.