Birgit Wiltschi


Research interest

Our research interests are focused on non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs). In contrast to the 20 canonical amino acids prescribed by the genetic code, ncAAs boast unusual side chain chemistries. These make ncAAs attractive as building blocks for protein engineering and as chiral synthons for pharmaceutical compounds. Accordingly, the Wiltschi group works on two main topics: (i) the efficient production of synthetic proteins containing ncAAs with a special focus on enzymes, and (ii) the biosynthesis of ncAAs. This involves the development of robust tools and reliable procedures for protein engineering with ncAAs as well as metabolic reprogramming of the host cells for efficient ncAA production. Specifically, the prediction of the effects of ncAA incorporation would be highly attractive in order to facilitate the manufacture of synthetic designer enzymes with desired traits.

The technique for global substitution of canonical amino acids by their non-canonical analogs is very well established for protein engineering in our group. A palette of ncAAs and the appropriate amino acid auxotrophic E. coli hosts are ready to use off the shelf. If necessary, the approach can be expanded to S. cerevisiae and P. pastoris. The know-how for site-specific incorporation of ncAAs is available as well. Besides this, we use state-of-the-art restriction endonuclease-free techniques for cloning (Gibson cloning). Small and large scale (bioreactor) protein expression is a standard in the lab as well as protein purification using state-of-the-art FPLC methods. We employ synthetic biology methods for genome engineering (lambda Red recombineering) and metabolic reprogramming (combinatorial pathway assembly).


Curriculum vitae

  1988 - 1996 Undergraduate education, diploma in biochemistry, Graz University of Technology, Austria
  1996 - 1997 Postgraduate Scientist, European Functional Analysis Network (EUROFAN I) Lipid Node Graz University of Technology, Austria
  1997 - 2002 Doctoral Study of Technical Sciences (Dissertation), Graz University of Technology, Austria
  2002 -2005 Postdoctoral Scientist, Department of Membrane Biochemistry, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany
  2005 - 2009 Senior Scientist, Molecular Biotechnology Group, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany
  2010 - 2011 Group Leader, BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies & Institute of Biology II Synthetic Biology Division, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Germany
  2011 - Head of the Synthetic Biology Group, Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology acib GmbH, Graz, Austria
  2020 - BioTechMed-Graz Project Assistant, Graz University of Technology, Austria
  2020 - FET-Open PURE Project Assistant , University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Publications and grants

Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Birgit Wiltschi

acib Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology & Institute of Molecular Biotechnology
Technical University of Graz, Petersgasse 14, 8010 Graz, Austria

Institute of Bioprocess Science and Engineering
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences
Muthgasse 18, 1190 Vienna, Austria

tel.: +43 (0)316 873 9313
BioTechMed acib