Patent of the Month April

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Sustainable phosphate harvesting with yeast cells

“IP and Youth – Innovating for a better future” is this year’s motto of the World Intellectual Property Day, WIP-Day, celebrated in April by the World Intellectual Property Office WIPO. An invention by Dr. Jonas Christ, former PhD student at the Institute of Applied Microbiology iAMB at RWTH Aachen University, corresponds to this motto in a special way. For his brilliant invention of extracting phosphate from laundry wastewater using yeast cells, he was awarded the prestigious 2021 NRW Innovation Award in the category Young Talent. 2018, the associated patent specification DE102018130081A1 was filed in Germany by RWTH Aachen University titled "Polyphosphate-rich yeast extracts and method for producing same" - our Patent of the Month April!

Within his PhD at the department of Professor Lars Blank, who is also co-inventor, Jonas Christ has developed a microbiological recycling process for phosphate. For this purpose, cells of baker's yeast used in households are first grown on a phosphate-free medium and cells thus "starved" for the mineral. If then added to wash effluents from the chemical industry, which contain high amounts of waste phosphate, the yeast cells effectively accumulate the phosphate inside and convert it into polyphosphate. From the enriched yeast cells, pure polyphosphate can be extracted in good yields. Due to modified chemical properties, this is more valuable than simple phosphate and suitable for many applications in the food industry, such as the production of processed cheese. Furthermore, Christ was able to create a completely new product from the cells. This is a phosphate-rich yeast extract that can be used, for example, in the production of meat sausage and kebabs, making it particularly interesting for the food industry.

So how is Jonas Christ’s invention making the world better?
The mineral phosphate is exploited from fossil ore reserves in Morocco, but also in the USA, China and India, which will, however, be exhausted in the foreseeable future. It is used in the fertilizer industry and is essential in many areas of food production. Excreted phosphate washed out of over-fertilized soils finds its way into our waters, where it also poses an ecological problem before new fossil phosphate ore reserves are formed in rivers and oceans over a period of millions of years. With Christ's award-winning process, there is now for the first time a natural, microbiological alternative for polyphosphate manufacturing, that has so far been exclusively produced chemically. In addition, recycling the valuable mineral conserves global resources and helps protect the environment by decreasing phosphate pollution of the water!

However, the process patented by Christ has even more advantages. With its analytical polyphosphate extraction, it is possible to yield up to 40 percent more substance from the yeast than with conventional methods, and it is also much faster. In addition, standard laboratory equipment is sufficient for his developed analytical method; formerly, extremely expensive special equipment was necessary. The measuring method is now even marketed by a Dutch company under the brand name "Phosfinity". Our sincere congratulations on this great inventive talent!

P.S. On the 25th of April, we will present more innovative young companies with world improvement potential in the region at an online event for WIP-Day 2022. For more information and to register for the free event, click here.

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Preisträger der Kategorie Nachwuchs - Dr. Jonas Christ

RWTH Aktuell Pressemitteilung Juni 2021

Futurelab Aachen - Innovativer Schmelzkäse

Patent document DE102018130081A1