Dr Adam Dobrowolski from the Department of Biotechnology and Food Microbiology at the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Science received 1.5 million PLN for research in the SONATA BIS 7 competition. He’s going to check if and how the biomass of brown marine algae can be used by yeast to produce biofuels.
– Yarrowia lipolytica yeast is found in cheese and long-matured cold cuts, it is used to produce erythritol, which is a sweetener, and citric acid. It’s completely harmless, it also has great metabolic potential for producing a variety of valuable compounds – says dr Adam Dobrowolski, who wants to use the yeast to produce biofuels using algae biomass as a substrate.
As he explains: the increasing world population means an increasing demand for food and energy, therefore we should look for new sources of feedstock and live in line with the idea of sustainability. And one of its key elements is the economy based on knowledge and on renewable energy sources. The consumption of fossil feedstock can be partially limited by replacing it with fuels based on plant-based biomass. However, it requires an enormous acreage of farmland intended for non-nutritive purposes. The development of biotechnology allows to produce biofuels by microorganisms that are found in the natural environment and have the ability to create and accumulate lipids, that is fats essential for biodiesel to be created.
fot. Tomasz Lewandowski
One of the main components of algae’ cell walls is alginate (often used in laboratories as cell immobilizer) that few organism are able to utilize, that is to digest and use to produce other compounds. Therefore the essence of the research is going to be the introduction of alginate utilization into yeast, its genetic modification. Dr Dobrowolski’s team is going to use for this purpose the CRISPR/Cas9 method – a relatively new genetic engineering tool that allows to make very accurate changes to the genome. Later on, the team’s going to check if the yeast modified that way will produce lipids.
fot. Kerstin Riemer