Exhilarating success

Christin Reimer receives science award of the Beutenberg Campus

Three people in a lecture hall hold a check for 1,000 euros in large format, Christin Reimer in the middle holds flowers and a certificate
The Beutenberg Science Award for the best dissertation to Christin Reimer (center) was handed over by Axel Brakhage (left), Director of Leibniz-HKI and Peter Zipfel (Leibniz-HKI and Chairman of Beutenberg Campus e.V.). Source: Michael Ramm/Leibniz-HKI

Amoebae that produce cannabinoids: Christin Reimer wrote her doctoral thesis on this topic at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology (Leibniz-HKI). She has now been honored for her work with the Science Award of the Beutenberg Campus Jena e.V. for the best dissertation. The prize is endowed with 1,000 euros and was ceremoniously awarded during the "Noble Talks" on May 25, 2023.

Cannabis is literally on everyone's lips today. Not only the increasing legalization of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in numerous countries, but above all the need in medicine is creating an increased demand for pure compounds in high concentration at the lowest possible production costs. However, isolating this from cannabis plants is complex, and chemical synthesis is expensive.

Christin Reimer and her team therefore set out to find a biotechnological process that could be developed into an industrial process. The amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum offered itself as a promising candidate because it itself possesses numerous biosynthetic genes for the production of complex natural products. "When we took a closer look at the genes, we noticed that some had a high similarity to plant biosynthetic genes," Reimer said.

As a doctoral student on a research team led by Falk Hillmann, she managed to get the amoeba to produce olivetolic acid - a precursor to the cannabinoid THC. To do this, she took advantage of the amoeba's natural properties and combined the plant enzyme with an enzyme from the amoeba.

"Through our research, we have shown that the amoeba Dictyostelium can be used as a biotechnological production platform for natural plant substances," Reimer said. A patent application has already been filed for the process, and further improvements are being made on an ongoing basis. In the meantime, Reimer is conducting postdoctoral research at the Leibniz-HKI's biotechnology center to have the amoeba produce not only the precursor but also the final stage, i.e. THC.

Full news in German: Berauschender Erfolg


Christin Reimer

Science communication & accreditation

Friederike Gawlik
Charlotte Fuchs


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