Chair of Biotechnology was established in 1992 at the Department of Food Science and Technology, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana. Later on in 2010, in the scope of reorganisation, the Chair of Biotechnology merged with the Chair of Food Microbiology and it has been renamed to the Chair of Biotechnology, Microbiology and Food Safety. At the Chair, we intensively carry our research and pedagogical work in the study programs of Biotechnology, Microbiology, Food Science and Technology, and Nutrition. Numerous national and international research projects have been carried out in the fields of microbial biotechnology, food microbiology and biotechnology, microbial genetics and taxonomy, bioprocessing, proteomics and (bio)analytics.
The Chair of Biotechnology, Microbiology and Food Safety consists of the following laboratories: Laboratory for Biotechnological and Microbiological Education, Laboratory for Industrial Biocultures, Laboratory for Industrial Bioprocesses, Laboratory for Proteomics, Laboratory for Food Microbiology and Laboratory for Molecular Biology. The Chair also includes the Infrastructure Center for Bioprocessing Technology and the Collection of Industrial Microorganisms (ZIM) where thousands of microbial strains of yeasts, bacteria, filamentous fungi and actinomycetes from natural and industrial environments are stored.
Researchers at the Chair are active in developing several research areas:
i) In the field of industrial bioprocesses and bioculture development with the main focus on the bioprocesses for the production of microbial secondary metabolites and industrial enzymes.
ii) We are developing and applying advanced metabolic engineering and synthesis biology approaches, relating mainly to »cell factories« based on actinomycetes and yeasts hosts.
iii) We are also specialised in the development of industrial processes for the production of primary and secondary metabolites up to the scale of laboratory bioreactors of volume 5L-20L.
iv) We are developing lactic acid fermentation processes of diverse substrates to increase their functional and nutritional value. With a proteomic approach, we study metabolic and biosynthetic pathways of the microorganisms used, and thus the quality and safety of fermented products.
v) Model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the stationary phase of growth is used to study the influence of bioactive substances and other environmental factors on cell health by measuring various parameters at the cellular and proteomic level.
vi) We isolate and characterize microorganisms from traditional foods and their natural environment. By applying genomic tools we are studying the driving forces of their adaptation to the human environments and the emergence of novel yeast species.
vii) We use the tools of directed laboratory evolution of yeasts to improve their properties and apply these approaches in development of new food products.
viii) We study the activity and mechanisms of action of natural antimicrobial agents of various origins for effective control of microbial pathogens and food spoilage agents.
ix) Advanced microscopy methods, cultivation and molecular-biological approaches are combined in the studies of biofilm formation and adaptive mechanisms of bacterial survival on surfaces.
x) We study virulent factors such as attachment, biofilm formation, adaptation or resistance to disinfectants or alternative antimicrobial agents, and relate them to the physiology of model organisms (function of efflux pumps and cell membranes, extracellular matrix molecules, etc.).
xi) Microbial interactions of Campylobacter are investigated at the strain, species and genus level, through signaling molecules, gene transfer and bacterial interactions in mixed biofilms.
xii) We are developing advanced methods for the identification, quantification and characterization of pathogenic microorganisms, spoilage and indicator microorganisms in food.
xiii) In order to manage microbiological contamination of food and food production environments, we new, environmentally friendly technologies of minimal food processing and new contact surface materials (antimicrobially active delivery systems and biocomposites).
The Chair cooperates with numerous institutions nationaly and internationaly, organizes domestic and international conferences and participates in international projects. We traditionally cooperate actively with many Slovene and foreign companies in the area of food, chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Since the formation of the Chair, a number of new SMEs have been founded as a result of translation activities in the scope of diverse research projects.
Since the foundation of the Chair, a large number of students of Biotechnology, Microbiology, Food technology or Nutrition have completed their studies at the Chair. Among them, more than 75 PhD students have finished their doctoral studies and today they work as successful professionals and leading managers in industrial sector, governmental and research institutions and universities.