Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Beer Sheva, Israel
Microalgae are a highly promising resource for the sustainable production of a wide variety of biomaterials for a wide range of applications. Microalgae can transform solar energy at high efficiency directly into valuable biological products using marginal water resources, waste nutrients and exhaust CO2 without the needs for high value cropland. A wide variety of eukaryotic microalgae of high evolutionary diversity produce naturally valuable products like polyunsaturated fatty acids, carotenoids, medically active carbohydrates etc. Nevertheless only a few commercially viable algal products have entered the market. Algal cultivation and induction of high value product accumulation is a complex problem, algae grow in diluted solutions and require large areas and water volumes, causing high cultivation and harvesting costs and posing contamination problems and variable productivities due to climate variability. Genetic modifications to make microalgae better suit industrial applications are possible over a wide range of target mechanisms: stress tolerance, product accumulation pathways, cellular chlorophyll contents, novel metabolic pathways, resistance to pathogens and competition, etc. Due to the wide variability of algal strains under consideration, available techniques for genetic manipulations have to be adapted or developed for all algal strains of interest. Our consortium will adapt genetic engineering techniques to various algal strains of economic interest focusing on carotenoid and PUFA production and the overexpression of peptides of commercial value. In parallel we will develop cultivation technologies, harvesting and extraction methods for lipids, carotenoids and proteins using existing model algae strains that will then be adapted to suitable improved strains. Furthermore products will be tested for energy, pharmaceutical, nutritional or medical applications for economic evaluation of the production processes and their economic exploitation.