„Biotechnology to Face Climate Change“

Prof. Johannes Gescher holds inaugural lecture

On Wednesday, June 19, Johannes Gescher, Professor of Technical Microbiology, gave his inaugural lecture at the School of Process Engineering at TU Hamburg. His lecture entitled "Biotechnology to Face Climate Change - On the potential uses of microbial systems for a resource-conserving economy" dealt with new approaches to combating climate change. Prof. Gescher explained the importance of biology in the 21st century and compared his views with those of the American biochemist and entrepreneur Craig Venter, who emphasized that biotechnology has the potential to offer solutions to global challenges such as climate change.

In his presentation, Gescher explained that we can learn from biological systems such as bacteria to develop more sustainable and efficient production methods. "We can produce chemicals that we can use for the production of fuels or as plastic substitutes, as well as produce protein for the food sector more efficiently than plants are currently able to do," said Gescher in his lecture. Biofilms (layers of slime) play a role here. Although they are the most common form of growth of microorganisms such as bacteria in nature, they have hardly been used in biotechnology to date. Gescher explained that biofilms of microorganisms can be used on electrodes. They can help to convert the chemical energy in residues and waste products into electrical energy. At the same time, microorganisms can use electrical energy and carbon dioxide to grow and produce various products.

Prof. Johannes Gescher was born in Fulda in 1977 and studied biology at the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg from 1996 to 2001. After completing his studies, he worked as a research assistant at the Department of Microbiology at the University of Freiburg and completed his doctorate in 2005 on the "Characterization of a new benzoate metabolic pathway". This was followed by a postdoctoral stay in Prof. Spormann's laboratory at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University in the USA. From 2007 to 2008, he was a junior research group leader at the Institute of Microbiology at the University of Freiburg and held the professorship for microbiology there from 2008 to 2011. From 2011 to 2021, he was Professor of Applied Biology at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Since 2021, he has been a professor at the Institute of Technical Microbiology at Hamburg University of Technology.

Prof. Gescher has received several awards in the course of his career: The doctoral prize of the Association for General and Applied Microbiology (VAAM) in 2005, the Grisebach-Award of the University of Freiburg in 2006 and an elite scholarship for postdoctoral researchers from the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg in 2007. He was also a prizewinner of the BMBF ideas competition "Bioenergy 2021" in 2009. Prof. Gescher is currently a spokesperson for the "EveryCarbon" team, with which the TU Hamburg and the University of Hamburg are jointly participating in the nationwide SPRIND Challenge "Circular Manufacturing".

Prof. Gescher (2nd from left) with the Deputy Dean of Process Engineering Prof. Raimund Horn as well as TU Vice President Irina Smirnova and President Andreas Timm-Giel