History of the Course

Continuously held since 2004, the Braunwald Course "Biosystems Engineering" is uniquely combining modelling and simulation of bioreactors and biological systems. As instructors and organizers, Elmar Heinzle (Biochemical Engineering, Saarland University), Steffen Klamt (Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, Magdeburg) and Christoph Wittmann (Systems Biotechnology, Saarland University) form a dedicated team of teaching experts with a complementary, long-lasting experience in academic and industrial research and development.

"Biosystems Engineering" integrates concepts of systems biology, systems metabolic engineering, and synthetic biology with modelling of cells on genome-scale, including modelling of their surrounding bioprocess environment. It is the newest layout of the Braunwald Course, which successfully handles a long list of various modelling topics since more than 35 years.

The first Braunwald Course "Biological Reaction Engineering" started as early as in 1981. It was founded by Irving J. Dunn, Jiri E. Prenosil, both from ETH Zürich, and John Ingham from the University of Bradford in England. In 1982, Elmar Heinzle joined from ETH Zurich and completed the team. In the early years, the major emphasis of the Braunwald Course was on deriving material and energy balances and applying these to various problems in bioreaction engineering. With the advent of user-friendly computer programs that allowed hands-on numerical solution of the resulting equations, the focus then shifted to learning and understanding the dynamics of biological processes by modelling and simulation. Throughout the years, the continuous update of the Braunwald Course with new research trends, brought in additional aspects of systems biology, particularly methods of metabolic flux analysis and dynamics of cellular networks. This was partly covered by Christoph Wittmann from Saarland University, who joined in 1999.

From 2004, the Braunwald Course was continued by Elmar Heinzle, Christoph Wittmann and Matthias Reuss (University of Stuttgart), who then also joined. At this time point, the content of the Braunwald Course was considerably re-shaped with a strong focus on Biosystems Engineering. From 2018 Steffen Klamt of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems, Magdeburg, Germany is instructor after being guest lecturer in 2016 and 2017. He contributes with his great experience in metabolic network modelling. The course is still covering today’s most relevant aspects of classical biochemical engineering, but focuses primarily on the quantitative description and engineering of metabolic systems and their reactor environment. One unique aspect today is the integration of classical biochemical engineering principles, methods and knowledge with the increasing possibilities in modelling and simulating cells on cellular network level. Today, we use Berkeley Madonna and various MATLAB-based software as computer tools. However, the primary objective of the Braunwald Course remains the same: to teach the application of modelling and simulation approaches to biological and biotechnical systems in a small group size environment, supported by hands-on-exercises and intense personal exchange.

Through the years, the course strongly benefited from a rich repertoire of dedicated simulation examples. To this end, the book "Biological Reaction Engineering. Principles, Applications and Modelling with PC Simulation" was authored by Dunn IJ, Heinzle E, Ingham J and Prenosil JE and published by the Verlag Chemie, Weinheim, in 1992. It used the simulation program ISIM. In 2003, the second edition "Biological Reaction Engineering. Dynamic Modelling Fundamentals with Simulation Exercises" from the same authors was published by Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, now using the user friendly BerkeleyMadonna software and containing an even extended list of simulation examples. Presently, a third edition is in preparation and is expected to be published soon.