Maria Gundersen Deslauriers at her PhD defence

PhD interview: Increasing industrial use of biocatalysis

Monday 11 Dec 17
by Frederik Appel Olsen

DTU Chemical Engineering would not be much of a scientific institution without its many PhD students. We interviewed Maria Gundersen Deslauriers about ‘Considerations for implementation of novel enzyme-based processes’.

The many PhD students at DTU Chemical Engineering are a vital part of the scientific life and community of the department. One of them is Maria Gundersen Deslauriers who defended her PhD thesis ‘Considerations for implementation of novel enzyme-based processes’ on November 30, 2017.

We asked the newly appointed PhD five questions about her research:

1. What is the essence of your PhD project?

My PhD aimed at increasing industrial use of biocatalysis (the use of enzymes in a controlled fashion to obtain specific chemical products). This was carried out through two different case studies: Using the enzyme transaminase in the synthesis of chiral pharmaceutics, and using carbonic anhydrase in carbon capture applications. From the case studies, I could draw conclusions on the cases themselves and on biocatalysis in general.

2. What did you discover during your research?

In the transaminase case study, a methodology and tools for fast implementation of transaminase reactions were developed. This is important as this enzyme is used for the synthesis of pharmaceutics where time is very limited. These tools can enable a wider use of transaminases, especially in early-stage clinical trials. 

In the carbonic anhydrase case study, it was found that temperature was the most destabilizing factor. A model, using enzyme deactivation data from a previous study in my PhD, investigated the use of ultrafiltration to extend enzyme viability. The model shows very promising results, which should be further be validated experimentally.

The overall conclusion of the PhD is that early integrated process-, enzyme- and reaction-engineering is vital for successful implementation of biocatalysis.

3. What are the possible wider implications of your research for society?
"Career-wise, the PhD from DTU has opened many doors for me, and I am very grateful to have carried out my PhD with John Woodley."
Maria Gundersen Deslauriers

The research in this PhD allows for the use of environmentally non-hazardous production methods. This is of course good for the environment, but also for production facilities and in the last instance: the consumer.

4. What made you choose to apply for a PhD position at DTU Chemical Engineering?

I have a background in biochemistry and chemistry working with biocatalysis. As a scientist, I became interested in understanding the limitations of implementation of the science I was investigating. Professor John Woodley is a renowned researcher in biocatalysis who investigates these questions. I, therefore, wanted to carry out a PhD with Professor Woodley.

5. What does the future hold for you?

Career-wise, the PhD from DTU has opened many doors for me, and I am very grateful to have carried out my PhD with John Woodley. The combination of hands-on experience in the lab and the many collaborative projects is a great starting point for many academic and industrial positions. I wanted to continue my career in the interface between science, engineering, and business. Next step is that I am starting in a business development position with a pharmaceutical company.


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