Bioprospecting of complex biomaterials with novel physical and biological properties requires efficient biosequence mining in combination with orchestrating a functional expansion of the biosynthetic potential of the cell via synthetic biology combined with biotechnological access to produce these materials. One of our strategic aims is to functionally rebuild and redesign natures superelastic and responsive “high duty cycle” bioelastomers e.g. found in the joint of grasshopper legs and the connecting points of fly wings to the flies torso/muscles for technical application and regenerative medicine. In order to enable grasshoppers high performance in creating, storing and timely releasing mechanical energy and to allow for millions of wing movement cycles the material enabling this almost perfect elasticity requires special sequence and linkage patterns. Rebuilding the natural system in a stimulus responsive manner allows access to a system which can be selectively adjusted to respond to various environmental stimuli e.g. mechanical force/change in elastic modulus (E-modulus); temperature(change in molecular structure & E-modulus).
In order to gain access to such protein-based systems we developed new molecular biotechnological tools, for example a patented protein-assembler platform consisting of a method to assemble the genes of highly repetitive matrix proteins including epitope organization via our "One Vector Tool-Box Platfrom" (OVTP), tuned bioprocess engineering form small and medium scale matrix protein production and advanced protein processing formats including the site-selective introduction of site-selectively introduced unnatural amino acids via an expanded genetic code. In addition a patented method called Bio-X-link to transform linear matrix protein sequences in a controlled manner to cross linked networks with adjustability of the Young modulus ranging from the low kPa to the dozen MPa regime and currently combined this protein modification scheme with innovative types of 3D printing with in situ cross linking forming 3D-objects from the micrometer to the centimeter scale. The recent systems we are currently accessing are novel technical superelastic materials and cell-instructing ECM-component hydrogels providing defined chemically and physically, as well as spatially engineered and organized and mechanically adjustable ECM-mimicry as mechano-active protein-based materials turning the research towards cartilage and tendon mimicry.