Max Planck Institute Director Tobias Erb has received Future Insite Prize and 1 million euros this week. Photo courtesy of Merck

Future Insight Prize of € 1 million given for carbon techs

The Max Planck Institute and its predecessor organization boast of almost 40 Nobel Prize winners over the past century. And the research outfit has added one more achievement this week.

Global tech giant Merck announced on July 18 that this year’s Future Insight Prize and 1 million euros had gone to Tobias Erb, a director at the Max Planck Institute.

Using synthetic biology, his team discovered and combined to enable more efficient carbon dioxide (CO2) fixation, according to Merck.

The company noted that these new-to-nature solutions would make it possible to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products, which in turn, could be used as feedstock for fuel.

“Science and technology hold the keys for society to accelerate its ability to improve the health of humanity and our planet. Tobias Erb has re-engineered photosynthesis to provide humanity with efficient capturing and conversion of carbon dioxide into useful products,” Merck CEO Belén Garijo said.

“He is a perfect recipient of the Future Insight Prize, and we hope this award will further accelerate the commercialization and adoption of his discoveries.”

Tobias Erb said that his team’s new technologies would be used in various industries by providing better carbon capture solutions.

“Our fundamental long-term research approach has started bearing fruit. My research team currently aims to deploy our technology in different setups to unlock the full potential of synthetic CO2 fixation,” the 43-year-old scientist said.

“Research in our lab interfaces biology and chemistry and centers on the discovery, function, and engineering of novel carbon-dioxide-converting enzymes and their further use in engineered and artificial photosynthesis. In doing so, we aim to provide novel solutions for improved carbon capture in biotechnology, agriculture, and synthetic chemistry.”

Merck said that this year’s Future Insight Prize is being awarded against the backdrop of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The prestigious annual award was introduced in 2019.

In the meantime, the 30,000-euro Johann Anton Merck Award was given to Prof. Stephen Jackson at the University of Cambridge.

Merch said that he had conducted pioneering research on DNA Damage Response (DDR), and his DDR drug targets have led to a new oncology therapy paradigm by harnessing the synthetic-lethality principle.