The current trends and most recent research findings were presented at the international biotechnology symposium held at the DAB Building in Debrecen. One of the key topics was mycotoxin research.

The University of Debrecen is the only institution in Hungary that covers the whole spectrum of biotechnology in the fields of education and research.

- UD offers courses in the areas of red (medical and pharmaceutical), white (industrial and environmental) and green (agricultural) biotechnology. These courses facilitate improvement in the focal areas of the university, and contribute to the establishment of new industrial facilities in the city and in the region – pointed out József Tőzsér, vice rector for sectoral development in life sciences at the opening event of the 7th biotechnology symposium on Thursday.

Degree courses in biotechnology were first launched at UD in 1987. The first MA students finished their studies ten years ago, and from this year, a BSc programme is also available.

- The progress in biotechnology in terms of research, innovation and production is bigger than the IT revolution we have witnessed in recent decades. Local biotechnology companies and UD with its related faculties and institutions make Debrecen the centre of biotechnological R&D – highlighted István Pócsi.

The head of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Microbiology of the Faculty of Science and Technology, who is also the lead researcher of the 2018-1.2.1-NKP-2018-00002 project entitled “Determining the short and long-run aflatoxin exposure of Hungarian consumers in the dairy product chain and establishing risk management measures” added that UD was determined to produce more findings in the field of biotechnology and to enhance its international presence in the area. The annual international conference is an excellent opportunity for UD researchers to present their results.

- The Centre for Agricultural Genomics and Biotechnology of UD conducts research into genomics, epigenetics, transcriptomics, and other molecular-level areas in plant biotechnology and plant genomics. These projects aim to enhance the resistance of plants to the stress that continuously grows due to climate change. The researchers of UD also study the ability of animals to cope with climate change and the thermal stress from the aspect of genomics, investigating the behaviour of wild and domesticated animals. The results of this international cooperation can be used in the agricultural, in the food and in the pharmaceutical industries. One of the focal areas of the Department of Applied Plant Biology is the study of how plants can be grown in space – explained Judit Dobránszki, head of the Centre for Agricultural Genomics and Biotechnology of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Environmental Management.

The agricultural and food biotechnology research programme of UD aims to monitor and eliminate mycotoxins, among other topics. According to Tünde Pusztahelyi, head of the Agricultural Laboratory Centre, the results of biotechnological research have a significant effect on everyday life as well.

- In addition to fusarium infection that affects crops, as a result of climate change, this year we have observed large-scale aflatoxin contamination, which mainly affects oily seeds. The main cause of plant diseases is obviously the rise in the temperature. This fungal species has been present in Hungary for a long time, but the climate has not supported the production of toxins until now. The goal of our search is to identify microorganisms and enzymes that inhibit the production of toxins – explained Tünde Pusztahelyi.

This year, researchers have presented their findings in three sections: mycotoxin research, agricultural biotechnology and pharmaceutical biotechnology. The presenters were prestigious internal researchers from three continents.

The keynote presentation in the mycotoxin research section was given by professor Nancy P. Keller from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research covers a wide range of topics from the study of the virulence factors of human and plant pathogens to the investigation of the biological role of mycotoxins and to the study of the genome of the fungus. As for the latter, she seeks to discover “natural products” produced by new fungi.

In the agricultural biotechnology section a presentation was given by K. Madhavan Nampoothiri,  head researcher in the National Institute of Interdisciplinary Sciences and Technology in India. His main areas of interest are microbial biotechnology, bioprocess technology and product development. His research focuses on industrial enzymes, microbial metabolites, probiotics, and nutraceuticals.

The first presenter in the pharmaceutical biotechnology section was professor István Molnár from the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, who has produced outstanding results in researching the degradation of steroids by microorganisms, and also studies the biosynthesis of anti-cancer, anti-fungi and pesticide polyketide compounds.

More than 20 presentations were given at the event that was organised jointly by the Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Microbiology of the Faculty of Science and Technology, the Centre for Agricultural Genomics and Biotechnology, and the Agricultural Laboratory Centre.

Press Centre - ÉE