Department of Insect Biotechnology
Welcome to the website of the Institute of Insect Biotechnology!
At the Institute of Insect Biotechnology and the The LOEWE-Centre for ‘Insect Biotechnology & Bioresources’ (LOEWE-ZIB) we use insects as bioresource for new products with applications in medicine, agricultural and industrial biotechnology. Involved in the project, funded by the State of Hesse, are the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen (JLU, lead), the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (Fraunhofer IME) and the TH Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences (THM).
The Institute of Insect Biotechnology at the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen includes the following professorships:
- Professorship of General Entomology (Prof. Dr. Steffen Pauls)
- Applied Entomology (Prof. Dr. Andreas Vilcinskas)
- Insect Biotechnology in Plant Protection (Prof. Dr. Marc F. Schetelig)
- Natural Substance Research with a Focus on Insect Biotechnology (Prof. Dr. Till Schäberle)
Basis for the adaptation in extreme ecological niches is often a unique repertoire of molecular tools useful for applications in the fields of medicine (Red Biotechnology) , plant protection (Green Biotechnology) and industrial biotechnology (White Biotechnology).
The Institute for Insect Biotechnology of the Justus Liebig University was funded in 2015 as a structural goal of the LOEWE Center for Insect Biotechnology and Bioresources, representing the first academic institute focusing on this emerging field within applied entomology world-wide. We define insect biotechnology, which has become well-known as yellow biotechnology, as the development and application of biotechnological approaches to translate insects or their molecules, cells, organs or associated micro-organisms into products and services for specific use in medicine, agriculture or industry. The Institute for Insect Biotechnology works closely with the Fraunhofer Institute for Bioresources, for which a new research building was constructed in the direct vicinity in 2020 (Fraunhofer IME). The founding director of the institute for insect biotechnology is also the head of the branch for Bioresources of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, and the spokesperson of the LOEWE Center for Insect Biotechnology and Bioressources (LOEWE-ZIB).
The goal of the LOEWE-ZIB encompasses the establishment of close cooperation in the translational life sciences of the Justus Liebig University and the TH Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences (THM). Both universities have established two new professorships to create the first international Master's program in “Insect Biotechnology and Bioresources”. The JLU has appointed Prof. Dr. Marc Schetelig to the professorship for insect biotechnology in plant protection and Prof. Dr. Till Schäberle to the professorship for natural product research with a focus on insects. Since 2020 the institute for insect biotechnology co-ordinates also the Bachelor program “Renewable Raw Materials and Bioresources” and offers a number of modules within the teaching programs of the Faculty 09 – Agricultural Sciences, Nutritional Sciences and Environmental Management.
The LOEWE-ZIB is funded by the Hessen State Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts (HMWK) via the excellence program LOEWE and is among the most successful collaborative research programs of the Justus Liebig University. Starting with seed capital of 4 Mio. € in 2009 to establish a Fraunhofer research group encompassing 10 employees, an additional 4.5 Mio. € were provided for the LOEWE research focus “Insect Biotechnology” funded from 2011 to 2013. Upon its successful evaluation, it was expanded to the LOEWE ZIB, which was funded with 36 Mio. € in the years from 2014 to 2019. Including the face out financing for the years 2020 to 2022 with about 5.8 Mio. € the total LOEWE funding adds to more than 50 Mio. € and a funding period of twelve years.
The Institute for Insect Biotechnology is also partner of the LOEWE Center for Translational Biodiversity Genomics (LOEWE TBG) under the leadership of the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research, which finances two W3 Professorships affiliated with our institute at the Justus Liebig University. Prof. Dr. Miklos Balint has been appointed to the Professorship for “Functional Biodiversity Genomics” and Prof. Dr. Steffen Pauls to the Professorship for “Basic Entomology”. The latter is also the co-spokesperson of LOEWE-TBG (LOEWE-TBG).
LOEWE-TBG is dedicated to researching the genomic basis of biodiversity. Biodiversity research, which has become ever more important, has so far been predominantly organismic and ecological in its approach. Major technical and methodological advances now allow biodiversity research to be more genomic and thus more application-driven. LOEWE-TBG aims to combine the fundamental research of a broad range of organisms’ genomes with developing viable services and products. Accordingly, the core focus of LOEWE-TBG is to make genomic diversity, as the base level of biodiversity, accessible and usable for basic and applied research. The first funding phase of the research network, under the auspices of the Senckenberg Society for Nature Re-search, has had 17.6 million euros approved for the years 2018 to 2021. The Animal Venomics project, headed by Professor Dr. Andreas Vilcinskas, is included in this funding. It combines various “omics” technologies with innovative bioinformatics methods of analysis to help use the genome of venomous animals or the transcriptome of their venom glands as a platform for the targeted identification of peptides and proteins. Selected toxins are synthesized or produced as recombinant variants to test for their therapeutic potential in medicine or applications in crop protection.