February 13 Noon Seminar

Biotransformation Processes in Micro-scale Structures
Metolius Room
Microproducts Breakthrough Institute (Directions)
1110 NE Circle Blvd. - HP Corvallis Campus

Dr. Polona Znidarsic Plazl, Fullbright Visiting Scholar
Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology
University of Ljubljana, Ljubjana, Slovenia

In last two decades, microfluidic devices have been successfully applied in various fields, starting from analytics and medical diagnostics, up to industrial production of pharmaceuticals, chemicals and fuel, indicating a new paradigm in process design. In contrast, microreactor technology has found its implementation in biotechnology much later and is still mainly limited to academic research. However, due to numerous advantages, progressively more attention is attracted to the use of microfluidic devices also in bioprocesses, especially for biocatalytic synthesis. Microfluidics offer an alternative approach during the biocatalyst screening stage with extremely high throughputs, as well as in the subsequent process development stages, where reliable quantitative data, such as optimal process conditions (pH, temperature, substrate concentration etc.) and biocatalyst activity and stability at process conditions are required. 

Several strategic advantages of the implementation of microstructured devices in biocatalytic processes will be discussed in this lecture. Their benefit will be illustrated by some examples studied by the Microprocess Engineering Research Group from the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the University of Ljubljana. Biotransformations with dissolved enzymes in two-liquid phase systems, as well as with immobilized biocatalysts – enzymes and cells - will be highlighted. Mathematical modelling of enzymatic microreactors comprising mass transfer and enzyme reaction kinetics will be presented, as well as development of intensified biocatalytic processes with the integration of downstream processing. Comparisons of microreactor-assisted processes with classical laboratory reactors will be discussed.

Dr. Žnidaršič Plazl is a Fulbright Scholar from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, where she is an Associate Professor of Biotechnology at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology. She graduated in Chemical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana, where she also obtained her Master degree in Biochemistry and her PhD. Her major research interests are biotransformations, the application of microreactor technology in biotechnology and microbial production of enzymes. Dr. Žnidaršič Plazl has published over 35 scientific papers and 2 book chapters and is currently involved in 2 projects funded by the European Commission. She is a Co-Chair of the series of international conferences on Implementation of Microreactor Technology in Biotechnology – IMTB, and a member of the Scientific Committee of the EFB Section on Applied Biocatalysis, of the Management Committee of the COST Action Systems Biocatalysis and of the Editorial Board of the journal Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Quarterly.

As a Fulbright scholar, she is hosted by Dr. Goran Jovanovic at the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering of Oregon State University and at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, where she focuses on bioprocesses in micro-scale devices and their use for advanced therapeutics.

Contact Information
Polona Žnidaršič Plazl
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology
Večna pot 113, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Email: polona.znidarsic@fkkt.uni-lj.si
Research group web site: http://chemeng.fkkt.uni-lj.si/