New ! Photobiocatalysis Unit

DAVID CANNELLA

Building BC (wing C)- 6th floor- room 207
Campus-Plaine ULB, CP 242, Bd du Triomphe
B-1050 Brussels, BELGIUM
E-Mail: david.cannella@ulb.ac.be
Tel: +32-2-6505416 or 5417, Fax: +32-2-6505421

I am a new Assistant Professor (Chargé de Cours) at the Ecole Interfacultaire de Bioingénieurs (EIB) of ULB, appointed to set-up a new laboratory in the field of Biomass Transformation and Biocatalysis. The laboratory activities are temporarily hosted at the LPGMP labs until a definitive location will be found.

I have obtained the PhD title in the production of biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark. During my postdoc I collaborated in Brazil at the CTBE and USP in Sao Paulo, in Italy at Sapienza-Rome, and in Scandinavia at Chalmers-Goteborg, and NMBU-Ås.

My main research focus is the PHOTO-BIO-CATALYSIS for the conversion of light’s energy into chemical energy: in practice a green-chemistry oriented conversion of biomass to biochemical and biofuels using the light as energy and the enzymes as catalysts.
I am also involved in the enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulose and its microbial fermentation into fuels and chemicals (electrons assisted fermentations). Moreover the enzymatic functionalization of nanocellulose as building blocks for new biomaterials and surface modification of carbohydrates biopolymers represent also a field of interest for the current research. Thus in general my research and teaching activities are based on the biorefinery and circular bioeconomy concepts.

In Nature the energy of light is converted into chemical energy to drive the oxygenic photosynthesis, yielding lignocellulosic biomass, oxygen and life on Earth. But what if the same energy could drive the reverse process to break/oxidize the organic carbon biomass ?
I have recently reported an efficient light-driven enzymatic system, based on photosynthetic pigments and the fungal enzyme lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase (LPMO) that degrades renewable carbohydrates like lignocellulose, chitin and starch, called in popular terms “Reverse Photosynthesis”.
This approach will allow studies on a broad spectrum of fundamental and applied sciences: the energy efficiency of the light-driven process in Nature (studying the lignocellulose degrading fungi and plants) and in vitro (green technologies for production of biofuels, oligosaccharides for human diet, biochemical and drug precursors) constitute the core of the research projects for Master students, PhDs and postDocs.