The EUROFUNG Consortium
The EUROFUNG network, founded in 1995, represents a European virtual centre expertise with globally recognised experts and long-term industry/academia collaborations in the field of white biotechnology. It has grown into a foundation with the aim to explore and enlarge the possibilities of filamentous fungi as cell factories.
EUROFUNG currently consists of 38 academic groups from 13 countries including Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Greece and Israel. In addition, the industrial platform includes 9 small, medium-sized and large European biotechnological and pharmaceutical countries from 6 different European countries. It is structured as an open communication framework for European fungal research connected to biotechnology, agricultural and pharmaceutical companies. In 2011, a new EUROFUNG board has been elected. The board consists of five members from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. They include Prof. Mark Caddick from the University of Liverpool, Prof. Arthur Ram from the University of Leiden, Prof. Gerhard Braus from the University of Göttingen, Dr. Kim Hansen from Novozymes and Prof. Vera Meyer from the Technical University of Berlin who serves as speaker of EUROFUNG.
The importance of filamentous fungi
Filamentous fungi are microorganisms with unique properties in relation to protein and metabolite production, serving as a major resource for sustainable applications in areas such as biofuel and chemical production. Fungi are also potential foes, being a serious and growing cause of human disease and a major threat to crops and food security. With over 1.5 million species, as a friend it represents a major resource for future sustainable applications and processes, but as a potential foe it is a serious and growing cause of human disease and mortality and threat to many crops and food safety.
The importance of fungal-based biotechnology
Europe is a world leader in industrial applications of filamentous fungi and the underlying science. In the 1920s, fungal citric acid has been introduced into the market as major food ingredient, soon after Fleming discovered penicillin which till now has saved the lives of millions. Since the 1980ies, filamentous fungi are used for the production of proteins and enzymes as they are often superior to bacterial and yeast based production systems, in terms of versatility and secretory capacity.
However, to date only a small fraction of the metabolic potential of filamentous fungi has been exploited or is even known. Many European companies, which are part of the EUROFUNG consortium, have thus active research programs to extend their current fungal products:
- Organic acids which are used as food ingredients and key building blocks for the chemical industry
- Proteins such as hydrolytic enzymes used for various applications in white biotechnology including biomass degradation for biofuel production and heterologous proteins used as pharmaceuticals
- Secondary metabolites including antibiotics and pharmaceuticals such as statins