The research theme is to design and apply enzymes and microorganisms in a biorefinery context or in the fermentation industry. We work with a broad range of tools including bioprospecting, systems biology, cell factory design, fermentation physiology, biosensors, modelling, chemical and structural characterization of biomass. These different tools are applied to gain detailed understanding of the enzymes and microorganisms we work with and how they interact with their surroundings – in nature or in an industrial context.
The research focus on:
Microbial robustness & cell factory design
Primarily yeasts are studied and metabolically engineered for production of a range of products including bioethanol, adipic acid, fatty acids and functional food ingredients. Microbial robustness has been conceptualized and tools for investigating and describing robustness with regards to quantification, biosensors, sub population studies and evolutionary engineering are studied. Fermentation physiology is an integrated part of the studies.
We study the function of the yeast cell membrane with regard to transport of undissociated weak acids. The overall research question is how/if cellular tolerance towards weak acids can be modulated by membrane engineering. We use a combination of metabolic engineering targeting the cell membrane composition, lipodomics, membrane modelling and studies of the supramolecular properties of the cell membrane in our studies.
Enzyme discovery & Functional characterization of CAZymes
In a collaboration with Vietnamese researchers, we explore the fungal biodiversity in Vietnam to find novel acidophilic and thermophilic fungi. By phylogenic and omic approaches we investigate the natural function of the filamentous fungi and their enzyme machinery. We have a special interest in studying LPMOs and esterase including cutinase and glucoronyl esterase and functionally characterize these enzymes.
Biomass and enzyme applications
Enzymes find numerous applications in biomass utilization and valorization. We study the enzymatic saccharification of mildly steam pretreated spruce and how targeted enzyme cocktails can improve the saccharification. Cutinases is used to valorize suberin in bark by releasing valuable fatty acids. LPMOs have been applied for their oxidative action in functionalizing CNCs. For these application studies the use of complex, industrially relevant biomass polymers combined with biomass analytics and studies of the enzyme action are instrumental.
Biorefinery concepts & processes
Our enzymes and microorganisms are applied in different paths converting biomass to fuels, chemicals, materials, food ingredients and pharmaceuticlas. With our engagement in Wallenberg Wood Science Center we contribute to the materials biorefinery. Furthermore, fermentation processes after enzymatic hydrolysis explore the sugar platform and carbon dioxide valorization use the gaseous platform of bioconversion.
Research group leader
- Vera Novy (postdoc 2019-2022)
- Efstratios Nikolaivits (postdoc 2021-2022)