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Moritz Koch receives VAAM PhD-Award

19.03.2021 News

Moritz Koch, former PhD student with CMFI PI Karl Forchhammer, has received the VAAM PhD-Award. The prize is awarded annually by the "Vereinigung für Allgemeine und Angewandte Mikrobiologie" (VAAM).

In his thesis "Metabolic engineering strategies for an increased PHB production in cyanobacteria," Koch studied cyanobacteria of the genus Synechocystis. The bacteria and their metabolic processes could be modified to produce significant amounts of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). PHB is a natural form of plastic that degrades rapidly in the environment without causing harm.


The production of bioplastics by cyanobacteria is a climate-friendly alternative to conventional petroleum-based plastic production. The amount of bioplastic produced within the bacteria in the laboratory makes it feasible to use on an industrial scale.

The VAAM PhD-Award is presented to VAAM members at the Annual Meeting and is sponsored by BASF SE, New England Biolabs GmbH, Bayer Health AG and Evonik Industries AG.

The VAAM represents approximately 3500 microbiology-oriented scientists from research and industry. Research ranges from bacteria, archaea and fungi in food and water to pathogens, genome analysis and industrial use of microorganisms and their enzymes.

More Information

Related publications:

Orthwein T, Scholl J, Spät P, Lucius S, Koch M, Macek B, Hagemann M, Forchhammer K. The novel PII-interactor PirC identifies phosphoglycerate mutase as key control point of carbon storage metabolism in cyanobacteria. PNAS 118(6): e2019988118. (2021) doi:

Koch M, Bruckmoser J, Scholl J, Hauf W, Rieger B, Forchhammer K. Maximizing PHB content in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803: a new metabolic engineering strategy based on the regulator PirC. Microb Cell Fact 19: 231. (2020) doi:

Related press release:

Cyanobacteria could revolutionize the plastic industry, February 2, 2021.

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