Photo of Lisbeth Olsson and Cecilia Geijer

New network improves European yeast research

​Yeast, most frequently baker’s yeast, can be used both as model systems and cell factories for bio-based production of fuels and chemicals. In a new network project, where two researchers from Chalmers University of Technology were selected working group leaders, the focus is on other, less exploited yeast species, so-called non-conventional yeast. 
“It is very inspiring and fun to have received this grant. At the start-up meeting in Brussels before Christmas, we noticed that the need for a current and living network is great among the researchers working with these organisms around Europe”, says Cecilia Geijer, Assistant Professor in the Division of Industrial Biotechnology, at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering at Chalmers.

Together with Professor Lisbeth Olsson, Head of the Division of Industrial Biotechnology, Cecilia Geijer leads one out of five working groups in the network project “Non-conventional yeasts for the production of bioproducts” (Yeast4Bio). 

Network for universities and industry

The project is a so-called COST Action and is funded by The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), and the purpose is to initiate knowledge exchange and collaboration between the universities and companies working with non-conventional yeasts. The working group led by the Chalmers researchers focuses on bioproduct generation from the so-called sugar platform, where sugars found in biomass can be used to manufacture valuable products.

“At the start-up meeting, 29 countries were represented, but the network might be expanded. During the first year there is an opportunity for interested researchers to join the network,” says Cecilia Geijer.

Properties desirable for efficient industrial production​ of bioproducts

Yeast can be used for cost-effective and sustainable production of biofuels and biochemicals. The most frequently used species is baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but there is great potential in so-called non-conventional yeasts. There are thousands of different yeasts, most of them still unexplored. Among these there are those specialised to live in environments with different stress factors, to use complex carbon sources or to generate new bioproducts. All these properties are desirable for efficient industrial production.  

“Nowadays, also non-conventional yeasts can be developed into robust and productive cell factories, since new biotechnological methods have changed the conditions regarding which organisms can be used in the industry,” says Cecilia Geijer. 

Great​ global interest in the transition to bioeconomy

Cecilia Geijer and Lisbeth Olsson’s research focus on developing yeast strains that can ferment the sugars from renewable carbon sources such as lignocellulosic biomass, to make sustainable fuels and chemicals.

“There is a great global interest in research that can contribute to a transition to bioeconomy. One of the great benefits of this COST Action, as I see it, is that increased collaboration between the leading players in the research field at the European universities and industries could mean that we can set a standard for research on non-conventional yeast. This standard could make our results more comparable, which in turn favors and develops the research even further,” says Cecilia Geijer.

COST Action grants are used to enable networking, for example arrange networking and working group meetings, conferences and workshops.

Text: Susanne Nilsson Lindh
Photo: Martina Butorac
 
Read more about COST Actions 

Published: Wed 19 Feb 2020.