FeruBase – Customized microorganisms for the production of ferulic acids as a precursor of high-quality plant products

Ferulic acids are plant-based ingredients that serve as a starting substance for flavorings and are also in demand in medicine and cosmetics due to their antimicrobial properties. As part of the FeruBase project, a new biotechnological process for producing the natural substance is being optimized and scaled up to industrial scale at Fraunhofer CBP.

Biotechnological production of ferulic acids as a precursor for flavorings

Ferulic acid – plant base for high-quality aroma and flavor substances

Ferulic acid is the starting material for aroma substances such as vanillin and is mainly responsible for the taste of wheat beer, as the acid is converted into the typical wheat beer aroma during the fermentation process. It occurs in different forms in many different plants. Up to now, however, the production of this promising natural substance has been complex. It is extracted from production residues of corn, wheat or rice with the aid of solvents and heat.

New biotechnological production process

The aim of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) was therefore to develop a biotechnological process for the cost-effective production of ferulic acid using microorganisms. Together, the partners succeeded in isolating the enzymes required for ferulic acid synthesis and expressing them in E. coli bacteria. This provides the first process for the biotechnological production of ferulic acid.

Optimization and scaling of the biotechnological production process for the manufacture of valuable downstream products

In the BMBF project FeruBase, ferulic acid serves as the starting substance for two different target products: health-promoting substances and flavorings. In addition, so-called bitter-masking substances are to be produced that can be added to food. Once the production process at MLU has been optimized to such an extent that the target products can be produced on a laboratory scale, process development to industrial scale will take place at Fraunhofer CBP.

Areas of application

The demand for the natural substance is already high. It forms the basis of biotechnological processes for the production of vanillin, which is already added to food, particularly in Asia, and is even used as a spice. Due to its antimicrobial properties, the plant substance is also in demand not only in medicine but also in the cosmetics industry.

Project information

Project title

FeruBase – Customized microorganisms for the production of ferulic acids as a precursor of high-quality plant products


Project duration

February 2020 – January 2023


Project partners

  • Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale)
  • Leibnitz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB), Halle (Saale)
  • Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP, Leuna


We would like to thank the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for funding the project »FeruBase«, promotional reference 031B0836C.

Federal Ministry of Education and Research.