Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


After the course the students should be able to: 

  • know the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of expression hosts
  • choose the optimal expression host for a given product
  • identify rate-limiting steps and know how to overcome them
  • modify the expression system for improved production and/or improved characteristics of the target molecule
  • select appropriate tools and strategies for genetic engineering

Credits: 5

Schedule: 12.01.2021 - 26.02.2021

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Alexander Frey

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Alexander Frey

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    This course focuses on the exploitation of cellular systems for the production of enzymes, therapeutic proteins, biochemicals and secondary metabolites. It is located at the interface between biochemistry, microbiology, cell biology and metabolic engineering.

    The course aims at the analysis, understanding and recombining of natures molecular building blocks using genetic engineering and molecular breeding technologies. This allows the creation of new expression and production systems, ranging from microbial, plant, insect to animal cells.
    A project work accompanies the lectures where students design a cell factory.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    The lectures are a mix of theory lectures and paper discussions related to the topics. Be prepared to read, present and discuss some scientific papers during the lectures. Topics will be distributed during week 2 of the course.

    The course consists of three blocks:

    1. Part I: An overview of production systems and engineering tools

    2. Part II: Expression of recombinant proteins: limitations and engineering strategies

    3. Part III: Metabolic engineering

    In addition, in parallel to the lectures, you will work on a group project in which you will design a cell based factory for production of a biotechnologically produced product. A number of topics are suggested, but students are free to suggest their own project. Kick-off for the project is in the first course week (12.1.2021). During third week of the course, coaching sessions will be available.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Examination and project work

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Course evaluation is based on the exam (70%) and assignment (30%). Extra points can be obtained from weekly quizzes that count towards the exam (max. 2 points/  week, in total 12 points. (Max. points in exam: 50)).

    Written exam contains a mix of essay questions, problem solving tasks and short questions/definitions . In order to pass the exam 40% of the total points need to be obtained.

    Written exam last 4 hours and are organized twice

    • February 26th, 2021
    • April 13th, 2021

    The assignment (group work) includes a presentation ("sales pitch" that emphasis both the business opportunities and the scientific novelty) and a written report. The assessment is based on group performance and individual contributions to the group work.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Total 135 h 
    Lectures and Seminars 24h
    Project work 40h
    Self-study 67h
    Exam 4h


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Materials distributed during the course

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Study materials:

    • For each lecture, notes and selected literature accompanying the topics will be made available
    • For certain topics consulting material from course CHEM-E8120 Cell Biology might be helpful 

    Additional reading:

    A general introduction to topic and background information can be found here:

    • Glick, Bernard J. (Author). Molecular Biotechnology : Principles and Applications of Recombinant DNA (4th Edition). Washington, DC, USA: ASM Press, 2010. Available in library.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    CHEM-E8120 (Cell Biology) and CHEM-E_New course (Metabolism)

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    3 Good Health and Well-being

    13 Climate Action


Details on the schedule
  • Applies in this implementation:

    Calendar weeks 2 & 3: Part I: An overview of production systems and engineering tools: 

    • Bacteria (E. coli and alternatives)
    • Lower eukaryotes (yeasts, fungi)
    • Higher eukaryotes (mammals, plants and others)

    Calendar weeks 4 & 5: Part II: Expression of recombinant proteins: common bottlenecks and engineering strategies

    • Engineering of cellular processes for improving productivity
    • Protein N-glycosylation, protein folding, secretion, in eukaryotes and bacteria
    Calendar weeks 6 & 7: Part III: Metabolic engineering:
    • Foundations of metabolic engineering
    • Production of small molecules and secondary metabolites

    Week 7: 18.02.2020: Presentation of design project (Scientific & industrial relevance)