Petroleum is the lifeblood of the chemical industry. It is the raw material for basic chemicals and is used to produce a tremendous wealth of products. Growing demand and dwindling resources mean that the chemical industry is increasingly focusing on renewable resources. Lignin is a wood component that is proving to be a particularly promising resource. It is currently almost exclusively used for generating energy, although it could also be used for many other purposes. In Baden-Württemberg, a research consortium is specifically focused on exploring the potential of this wood component.
Graft-versus-host disease is a serious complication in leukaemia patients who have been given a blood stem cell transplant from a genetically different person. Prof. Dr. Nikolas von Bubnoff and Prof. Dr. Robert Zeiser from the Department of Haematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Freiburg University Medical Centre initiated a Germany-wide study to show that an active substance called ruxolitinib has a promising therapeutic effect. The researchers from the DKFZ were awarded the 2016 Richtzenhain Prize worth 10,000 euros for their achievement.
The pressure is on to develop novel vaccines based on messenger RNA and aimed at combating cancer and protecting against pandemics. Although mRNA vaccination as a cancer monotherapy has suffered a setback this year, the industry is nevertheless confident that it will succeed because of existing proof that mRNA vaccines stimulate the body's immune defence.
Natural gas is a more climate friendly fuel than raw materials such as coal and petroleum. Nevertheless it is also a fossil fuel that generates anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In a collaborative project at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, scientists and engineers are concentrating on finding out how biogenic residues and waste materials such as wood, sewage sludge and biomass mixtures can be turned into alternative gaseous fuels.
The use of wood and other renewable raw materials for the production of industrial goods presents opportunities and risks. Is the shift from petroleum to wood possible and how can such a shift be best achieved? A research project at the University of Freiburg combines forestry know-how with political science methodology in order to sound out the bioeconomy.