Prof. Dr. Tobias Erb - Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prizewinner 2024

Prof. Dr. Tobias Erb

Prof. Dr. Tobias Erb

© DFG / David Ausserhofer

Synthetic Microbiology, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, and University of Marburg

Tobias Erb is awarded the Leibniz Prize in recognition of his outstanding work in synthetic biology, in which he analyses natural metabolic processes and draws on these to generate novel enzyme functions. His particular focus is carbon dioxide fixation – an issue of great social relevance. Through photosynthetic CO2 fixation in plants, the so-called Calvin cycle, almost 70 gigatonnes of carbon are bound per year, thereby removing it from the atmosphere. In addition to plants, algae and numerous bacteria also utilise the Calvin cycle. Although this and other naturally occurring metabolic pathways bind significant amounts of CO2, they could theoretically work even more efficiently. For this reason, Erb is looking for new CO2-binding enzymes so as to be able to use them for the purpose of carbon fixation. In this way, he and his working group hope to design artificial fixation pathways that are superior to natural pathways. For example, Erb already succeeded in introducing certain enzymes into plants to produce a CO2 concentration mechanism that has resulted in a significant increase in photosynthesis.

After completing his doctorate at the University of Freiburg and Ohio State University (USA), Erb initially went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (USA) on a DFG fellowship. He then moved to ETH Zurich, where he was initially a Fellow and later an Independent Junior Research Group leader. In 2014, he became group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, which he has headed as Managing Director since 2017. He has also been a professor at the University of Marburg since 2018. His groundbreaking work has been recognised on multiple occasions, with awards including the Merck KGaA Future Insight Prize in 2022 and the DFG’s Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize in 2016.


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