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Honored to receive the “Green Chemistry for Life” grant from UNESCO, IUPAC and PhosAgro!

June 15, 2017

A few days before the deadline for the call, I was about to abandon the preparation of the project, due to a lack of time (and, I confess, a little bit of procrastination). It is my colleagues from Halle, Martin Weissenborn, who sent me a few emails encouraging me to wrap up the application and offering his precious help to do so. Thank you Martin for the boost! As I couldn’t make it to St Petersbourg last week, it is Martin who represented the project, recieved the certificate and gave the awardee talk.

Martin Weissenborn recieves the award at the 21st International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2017), St. Petersburg, Russia

The grant programme aims to promote the implementation of innovative research projects in green chemistry by young scientists that respect the principles of green chemistry. A grant of ~ US$30,000 is awarded to support a one-year research project. This award will allow me to start an exciting collaboration with Martin’s excellent research group active in the development of enzymes. It will also allow us to follow up on promising results we are currently obtaining in the lab. I am also happy for my PhD student, Ludivine van den Biggelaar, who will have the opportunity to enrich her research experience with a stay in Germany and with stimulating new experiments.

Our project aims at developing greener ways to produce important drug precursors, in this precise case, chiral amines. These molecules can be obtained by classical multi-step processes, which involve the use of organometallic catalysts and harsh reaction treatments. These processes however require intensive purification procedures and have a relatively poor environmental performance. Enzymes can do the job in a much greener fashion, but they need to be immobilized on a suitable support to allow their recovery and reuse. Another way to make the process even greener is to switch from batch to continuous processes. To that end, we produce macroporous foams that can be easily used as an enzyme carrier in a flow process. The project supported by the programme is to use a combination of 2 or more enzymes to carry out a cascade reaction leading to the desired chiral amine, with high (enantio)selectivity. To do this, we have to engineer and select our own enzyme mutants able to make the targeted reactions. This is the job of our partner in Halle. The grant will allow us to team up for the development of a truly green and efficient continuous production process relying on enzymes.

I am thankful to the Green Chemistry for Life programme: this kind of tools supporting the initiative of young researchers is really precious. Multidisciplinary research is essential. Thus, fostering effective collaboration is key. I met Martin Weissenborn during a post-doctoral research stay at the University of Manchester in 2011. Since then we have been keeping in touch, always promising each other to collaborate “one day”. The grant offered by the Green Chemistry for Life programme allows us to finally make this happen.


From → Award, Event, research

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