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Spin-Off project SenseUp

Heads of SenseUp-Team

Picture of Heads SenseUp

Picture of Group SenseUp

Dr. Stephan Binder
Institute of Bio- and Geosciences
IBG-1: Biotechnology
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
52425 Jülich

Dr. Georg Schaumann (né Schendzielorz)
Institute of Bio- and Geosciences
IBG-1: Biotechnology
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
52425 Jülich

Logo GO-Bio and BMBF


Press releases
March 2016SenseUp erhält den Innovationspreis des Landes NRW 2015,
February 2015Technology Review "Innovatoren unter 35",
January 2015RWTH-Aachen Innovation Award 2014,
Oktober 2014PEP Awards 2014, Dritter Platz an Senseup in der Kategorie „Gründungsprojekte in der Frühphase“
September 2014Super Sonntag Artikel, Mit leuchtenden Bakterien zur eigenen Firma
September 2014Feierliche Übergabe des GO-Bio Förderbescheides durch Herrn Staatssekretär Thomas Rachel, Mit leuchtenden Bakterien zur eigenen Firma
April 2014GO-Bio, Jülicher Biotech-Ausgründung erhält 2,6 Mio. Euro
April 2014GO-Bio, 20 Millionen Euro für sieben Gründerteams
December 2014Helmholtz Enterprise Fond, Start-up help for market-ready re-search: Helmholtz supports four company spin-offs
May 2013Innovationspreis der Bioregionen in Deutschland 2014, Auszeichnung für Jülicher Biotechnologen


Highly efficient microbial producer strains are an essential component of many biotechnological processes. While there is an increasing need for novel and enhanced producer strains, their development and construction is limited by laborious and time-consuming techniques.

Major bottlenecks in strain development are screening steps, in which millions of genetic variants have to be analyzed for enhanced productivity under defined process-conditions. With current techniques, this often equals the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. This results in significant limitations in strain development:

  • Limited screening-capacity denies access to full genetic diversity and thus limits development potential
  • Limited screening-capacity makes complex genome engineering very laborious or even impossible
  • Individual cultivation of every clone restricts screening cultures to flask- or MTP-format, thereby ignoring process-relevant culture conditions (e.g. Fed-batch, pH-control, aeration,…).

Finding the needle in the haystack

The SenseUp Technology overcomes these problems, enabling integrated strain and process-development in ultra-high throughput (uHT).

It is based on intracellular genetic sensors, which transform product concentrations into a graded optical output (Fig. 1). In combination with fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) this enables product-oriented screenings of up to 50,000 individual cells per second and direct isolation of the best producing cells. This corresponds to million-fold acceleration of the screening process and generates significant advantages of the SenseUp-Technology compared to conventional techniques (Fig. 2):

  • Full diversity-coverage, accessing full development potential
  • Complex genome engineering, enabling tailor-made development
  • Integrated process development, resulting in ready to use strains

Graphic intracellular concentrationsFig.1: Genetic sensors detect intracellular concentrations of specific metabolites and transform them into a graded optical output.

Graphic SenseUp TechnologyFig. 2: The SenseUp technology removes the screening bottleneck in strain and enzyme development processes

Creating a technology platform

The SenseUp technology is established for the detection of various amino acids, precursor metabolites and NADPH in the industrially relevant hosts Corynebacterium glutamicum and Escherichia coli. Several applications were successfully demonstrated, for example, screening of:

  • large mutant cell libraries, obtained by undirected genome-wide mutagenesis for enhanced lysine production1.
  • gene-specific libraries, derived from error-prone PCR, for feedback-resistant variants of key enzymes for lysine, arginine, and histidine biosynthesis2.
  • saturation libraries of selected codons in essential target genes for alleles with a positive influence on productivity2.
  • gene-specific libraries of NADPH-dependent dehydrogenases for variants with altered substrate specificity3.

The SenseUp-project was initiated in 2014 with financial support of the Helmholtz Enterprise Fonds and Forschungszentrum Jülich. After being successful in the GO-Bio initiative (Gründungsoffensive Biotechnologie), the project will be supported by the BMBF until 2017.

Our aim is to expand the SenseUp-technology platform and to bring it to market maturity in the end of 2016. SenseUp will offer tailor-made microbial production processes for amino acids and customized technical enzymes.

Graphic SenseUp Project

  1. Binder, S. et al. A high-throughput approach to identify genomic variants of bacterial metabolite producers at the single-cell level Genome Biol 13, R40 (2012).
  2. Schendzielorz, G. et al. Taking Control over Control: Use of Product Sensing in Single Cells to Remove Flux Control at Key Enzymes in Biosynthesis Pathways. ACS Synth. Biol. 3, 21–29 (2014).
  3. Siedler, S. et al. SoxR as a Single-Cell Biosensor for NADPH-Consuming Enzymes in Escherichia coli. ACS Synth. Biol. 3, 41–4 (2014).
  4. Binder, S. et al. Recombineering in Corynebacterium glutamicum combined with optical nanosensors: a general strategy for fast producer strain generation. Nucleic Acids Research 41, 6360–6369 (2013).