Aromatic chemicals are versatile chemicals used in the manufacture of various medicines, but also as additives in cosmetics or food. Today, most aromatic chemicals are produced from oil and the need for new, sustainable biotechnological production methods for these chemicals is urgent. A research project led by Yvonne Nygård, Associate Professor at the Division of Industrial Biotechnology at Chalmers has just received a multi-million grant to develop technologies for this bioproduction.
The focus of the research project is on constructing microorganisms, yeasts and filamentous fungi, that can be used as cell factories and to sustainably produce aromatic chemicals. The production is based on the fermentation of sugars and requires efficient and robust microorganisms for competitive industrial production.
Why are yeasts and filamentous fungi suitable for this type of production?
“Baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is already used today to produce many different chemicals, among them aromatic chemicals. Consequently, there is already ga lot of knowledge on how these chemicals can be produced in yeast and there are many tools for modifying yeast. This makes yeast an obvious choice in this project where we will make quite complicated modifications and screen strain variants using biosensors,” says Yvonne Nygård, continuing:
“Choosing filamentous fungi provides us with robust and tolerant cell factories. They are quite complex to work with compared to baker’s yeast, but by testing similar modifications in yeast and fungi, we can learn more about regulation of the production of aromatic chemicals. We want to map the properties needed to be able to take the production of aromatic chemicals closer to a commercial level, in either yeast or filamentous fungi.”
Screening the strain variants with biosensors – how does this work?
“The biosensors measure the concentration of a certain predetermined substance in the cell or in the cell culture and report this concentration by fluorescence. In this way, the outcome of the cells’ efficiency can be measured. As a postdoc in the Netherlands, I developed a biosensor for a specific aromatic chemical, and we will pick up and continue this work. We will also develop new biosensors for other aromatic chemicals.”
What are the effects of your project receiving 10 million DKK from the Novo Nordisk Foundation?
“It is a fantastic opportunity to focus on a specific project for a longer period. More resources and a long-term perspective will hopefully lead to great progress, and I look forward to having a small team working on similar research”.
Text: Susanne Nilsson Lindh
Photo: Martina Butorac
- Yvonne Nygårds project FunAromatics – High throughput technologies for production of aromatic biochemicals with fungi
- Projects on sustainable food on IVA’s 100 list
- 7971 paths towards better cell factories
- New discovery can improve industrial yeast strains
- Cutting edge Nobel tool in practice at Chalmers
- Yvonne Nygård receives grant from the Hasselblad Foundation