Prof. Marie F. Gorwa-Grauslund
Lignocellulosic biomass represents an attractive source of sugars for the production of second generation biofuels by the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. However cost-efficient ethanol production requires overcoming major challenges, and more particularly the fermentation of a wide range of pentose and hexose sugars in a non-sterile and inhibitory environment.
Using metabolic and evolutionary engineering, we have extended the substrate range of baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to include the pentose sugars xylose and arabinose, as well as identified limitations in central carbon metabolism. In parallel, yeast tolerance to the furaldehyde inhibitors formed during the hydrolysis of lignocellulose has been increased using genetic engineering and strain adaptation, in collaboration with the group of Prof. Gunnar Lidén at the department of Chemical Engineering.
Current challenges aim at deepening the knowledge of yeast metabolism in order to improve the rate of sugar fermentation and the cell tolerance to additional stresses imposed by the process conditions (e.g. acid tolerance, thermotolerance, phenolic inhibition).