For the first time, this year Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking supported the contest by sponsoring a new bio-based European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) prize, awarded to a winning project that demonstrated three key principles related with the conversion of biomass into non-food value-added products. Contestants were asked to use raw material of a biological origin, like whole or parts of plants, trees, algae, marine organisms, micro-organisms, animal in a way which is:
The winning project had to meet a fourth criteria for effectiveness of its overall communicability to the scientific community and the general public. This means promoting scientific studies, and at the same time raising environmental awareness, and promoting the bioeconomy. The prize is awarded by BBI JU who will provide a paid 4-day trip to Brussels for the winning project to include travel to/from and accommodation in Brussels and to participate in a tailor-made experience related to the science behind the BBI programme.
18-year old Modestas Gudauskas (Lithuania) is the first winner of the Bioeconomy Bio-based Industries prize award. During the final ceremony of the EUCYS held in Brussels on September, 19, his project ‘ACETOBACTER SPP. BACTERIA PRODUCING BIOPOLYMERS SIMULTANEOUSLY’ was selected by an international jury as an outstanding example of bio-based research developing a new generation of biopolymers for a more sustainable future. Modestas expressed his delight at being selected by the judges for the novel concpet behind his project and in his scientfic approach to conducting the experiments.
Bio-based polymers, or biopolymers, can replace fossil oil-based plastics. The production route, based on the synchronous production of cellulose and a biopolymer called PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate), that he developed can play a role in enhancing product efficiency while offering opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint and environmental impact.
The jury report refers Gudauskas’ research, which aims to obtain bacteria capable of synthesizing both cellulose and polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) by transforming cellulose producting Acetobacteraceae bacteria, as a very promising idea. The 18-year old student transferred genes originated from another bacteria species (Ralstonia eutropha) responsible for PHB biosynthesis, thus creating a bacteria able to produce both biopolymers simultaneously.
Jurors were impressed by the way the experiments were implemented. The project was chosen out of a total of 91 submissions from 38 countries across Europe including contributions from Russia, Belarus, South Korea, the USA, Canada, and Israel.
More information on this year's competition here