Microalgae are of value in a wide array of applications including pharmaceuticals and food supplements. Most algae use light energy and CO2 for growth, providing valuable by-products whilst sequestering waste CO2. They are of increasing interest as components of the Circular Economy as sustainable solutions for food, energy and water security. Photobioreactors can be used to grow algae, making use of surplus electricity from renewable power generation, however, new smart-lighting systems are needed that can optimise production.
In this project a novel smart lighting system will be developed for photobioreactors that can adapt both intensity and wavelength during a growth cycle to target strains and specific bioproducts. LEDs will be combined with a custom-designed optical system and electronic control to achieve efficient light delivery throughout the growth reactor. The impact of illumination and wavelength will be assessed initially in laboratory-scale growth tests before subsequent scale-up and integration in industrial photobioreactors.
This multi-disciplinary project will be supervised by Professor Graham Turnbull, in collaboration with Profs Linda Lawton and Christine Edwards at Robert Gordon University, and with Xanthella Ltd in Oban. The PhD Studentship is funded by the IBioIC Collaborative Training Partnership, and the appointed student will be part of the IBioIC CTP training programme.
The main activities of the project will be designing and building the lighting system and algal growth tests. It will also include a substantial industrial placement at Xanthella. Training on algal culture and compound analysis will be undertaken at RGU, and once laboratory-scale tests have identified suitable growth methodologies, the lighting system will be adapted for integration with Xanthella’s commercial photobioreactors.
A new collaborative project between Xanthella and the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS), has been funded by Algae UK with the support of IBioIC. The objective of this project is to develop a new method to stimulate the production of carotenoids in microalgae without applying any stress but through customizing the light culture conditions. The project will use a six photobioreactor array of Xanthella’s microPharos PBR™ equipped with different types of LEDs and their impacts on both the growth and the composition of the algae will be studied. To know more about the project, please contact us or visit the Algae UK web site.
If you want to know more about microalgae carotenoids, have a look at this review written by the ABACUS project team.
Photobioreactors for sustainable production of plant-driven biocompounds
From papers, fabrics to wood products, plants generate most of the natural materials used in our environment . Plants also supply medicines, dyes, spices, and other specialized chemicals. While biotechnology has blossomed into industrial scale cell culturing for microbial and mammalian systems, plant cells are scarcely used; interestingly, plant-driven products are generated in other organisms via transgenic introduction of plant pathways .
Why are plant cells overlooked in industrial biotechnology? According to representatives of major companies in the field, the problem is simply that the tools and protocols are underdeveloped for industrial plant cell biotechnology, such as the suitable bioreactor platforms and the availability of high efficiency cell factories. Plant cells tend toward frail in typical bioreactors developed for microbes and mammalian cells; they are sensitive to the shear stress caused by mechanical mixing of the medium.
Furthermore, even though plant cells are autotrophic, they need supply of a high amount of sugar inside traditional bioreactors devoid of light. Ironically, the sugar content increases the risk of microbial contamination and infection. Therefore, bioreactors that allow photosynthesis (i.e. photobioreactors) should be developed for plant cell culturing. The biotechnology company Xanthella has established versatile photobioreactors for culturing diverse algae species .
Their systems supply air via tubes and thus do not involve mechanical mixing of the medium, and they come in a wide range of scales. Underdeveloped tools also extend to the selection of plant cell factories; the Nakayama Group at the University of Edinburgh is developing a synthetic biology toolbox to create plant cell factories with enhanced capabilities to produce specific types of biocompounds.
This PhD project aims to establish a robust, low-cost, and scalable platform for plant cell culturing and thus plant cell-based industrial biotechnology. Combining the novel Arabidopsis cell factory lines with Xanthella’s photobioreactors, we will develop two enabling innovations for plant cell-based industrial biotechnology: the suitable bioreactors and sophisticated toolbox for precision control of the cell activities.
References:  Thompson and Thompson (2013) Sustainable materials, processes and production. Thames and Hudson.;  Handbook of industrial cell culture. (2003) Ed. Vinci and Parekh. Springer.;  https://www.xanthella.co.uk/
The student will be co-supervised by Xanthella staff and will conduct research at the company (situated by sea, in the beautiful Argyll area of Scotland) for a year. For the rest of time, the student will be based at the University of Edinburgh.
This project will offer trainings in both academic and business acumens; therefore, it is a fantastic opportunity for candidates with strong interests in entrepreneurship. This is a BBSRC-funded IBioIC CTP project. It studentship is open to UK citizens and EU/EEA citizens who have resided in the UK the last three years.
If you are interested in applying, please contact Dr Nakayamanaomi.firstname.lastname@example.org with your CV and personal statement (explaining why you are interested in pursuing PhD and this particular project) for the first instance.
Microalgae, antibiotic drug discovery, omics, marine natural products, integrated bioprocessing
A 4-year PhD project is available in the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS) at the University of Strathclyde. Deadline for applications 31st May 2017
Although algae have been developed in the context of biofuels, the potential of marine microalgae as a source of bioactive specialized metabolites has yet to be investigated systematically. Two barriers exist to their efficient exploitation: (1) reliable tuning of their physiology during cultivation to induce metabolite production and (2) recognizing and characterizing metabolites produced.
Highly-controllable, narrow-waveband light will be employed through the use of modern LEDs Photobioreactors (PBRs) to induce chemically-diverse metabolite production by microalgal strains. The algal metabolites will be extracted profiled and further investigated using tandem mass spectrometry (HR-MS/MS). Both of these measurements are metrological, providing the measurement of tens of thousands of molecules across hundreds of crude fermentation extracts. The HR-MS/MS data will be used to create molecular networks using Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking. This will allow comparison of complex microalgal crude extracts based on similarities and differences of metabolite fragmentation across multiple strains (up to hundreds). This cutting-edge approach to chemical dereplication of strains allows identification of known metabolites in addition to analogues of known chemicals and thus rapidly identifies areas of unique chemistry for isolation and chemical prioritization (e.g. a particular strain).
Although these recently developed methods have been applied to bacteria, this will be the first study to use these innovative metabolomics approaches to enable the unprecedented biological diversity of microalgae to be investigated. Investigating light conditions (light/dark; flashing; intensity); wavelengths (mono and mixed) coupled with control of other environmental conditions (pH; temperature) will significantly advance microalgae as a biotechnological resource for the discovery of bioactive molecules that may find utility in industry and medicine.
A 4-year PhD project is available in the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS) at the University of Strathclyde. The successful candidate should have or expect to have a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in the areas of Microbiology, Biomedical Science, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, Chemistry or a related discipline. Candidates may send their application to Dr Katherine Duncan (email@example.com); (http://www.strath.ac.uk/staff/duncankatherinedr/), including a CV and cover letter, detailing their motivation for this particular PhD project by 31st May 2017.
This project is fully funded (Home / EU tuition fees and stipend at RCUK rates) for four years by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IbioIC) through their CASE (Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering) Studentship award program https://www.ibioic.com/PhD_Opportunities.htm , the University of Strathclyde Research Excellence Award Scheme and Xanthella Ltd (https://www.xanthella.co.uk)/.
The project will be in collaboration with Xanthella Ltd and will involve a 12-month research placement at the company (Oban, Scotland).
Microbiology, molecular biology, Liquid Chromatography High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (LC-HRMS), molecular networking, metabolomics
Shimizu, Y. (2003) Microalgal metabolites. Curr Opin Microbiol. Jun;6(3):236-43.
Ördög et al. (2004) Screening microalgae for some potentially useful agricultural and pharmaceutical secondary metabolites. Journal of Applied Phycology 16: 309-314.
Wang, M. et al. (2016) Sharing and community curation of mass spectrometry data with Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking. Nat. Biotechnol. 34, 828-837
“The ASLEE project is delighted to be holding a free-to-attend, one day conference – Empowering Rural Industries on 20th March 2017 at the Technology and Innovation Centre, Glasgow.
This showcase event integrating the renewable energy sector with innovative manufacturing, will provide opportunities to hear from and interact with experts from energy suppliers, aquaculture, distilleries, forestry, industrial biotechnology, community groups, government agencies and academic institutes.
Empowering Rural Industries will feature an exhibition area offering an excellent platform to increase your organisation’s exposure. There are also a range of sponsorship opportunities available. Exhibiting or sponsoring this event is a great opportunity to raise awareness of your products or services by engaging with professionals from a wide variety of sectors. As an exhibitor or sponsor, our digital marketing team will be on hand to support you in the run up to the event and help to ensure that your company/organisation gains the necessary exposure and promotion before, during and post event through our complimentary marketing opportunities.”
Head over to the ASLEE website to find more details on the conference schedule and sponsorship and registration options!
“This innovative new project will develop a Masters degree exploring the potential benefits of Blue Biotechnologies for health, nutrition and aquaculture.”
Dr McKenzie recently had a visit to Brussels to cement Xanthella’s partnership in a new project to develop a ‘Blue Technologies’ Masters Degree.
“The two-year Master’s degree, named ‘Blue Biotechnology Masters for Blue Careers (BBMCB), will be open to students with four years of higher education. Taking place at the University of la Rochelle, it will involve scientific training on Blue Biotechnology, which is the exploration and use of marine organisms to develop new products.
Along with the Atlantic Arc Commission, the project also involves academic organisations and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) from France, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as the Apprenticeship Formation Unit and the Lifelong Training and Employability Department from the University of la Rochelle.
This unique public-private partnership, which has a budget of just under €835,000 and is being financed by DG Mare under the “Blue Career” call for proposals, will ensure that students obtaining the Master’s degree will fulfil the needs of the SMEs and are ready for the workplace.
They will receive academic and practical knowledge, as well as technical skills, to become efficient in, for example, the production, extraction, characterisation and evaluation of marine molecules with biological activities. They will also develop the communication, language and management skills they need to help kick-start their careers as scientists.
As well as educational courses, work-linked training will take place during the course, combining practical approaches to the latest scientific knowledge and research. From the beginning of the second year of the master’s programme, each student will undertake an apprenticeship or internship with a project led by a blue biotechnology industrial partner.
Workers wanting to increase their knowledge or people seeking employment will also benefit from this training, with lifelong learning schemes and mentoring opportunities available.
A winter study school will be organised for students from various origins and levels, and there will also be the opportunity to attend conferences and courses on Blue Biotechnology.
Mrs Laurence Harribey, Regional Councillor or Nouvelle Aquitaine, and Chair of the CPMR Atlantic Arc Commission Innovation Working Group, said: “This experimental project, involving a range of partners from business, academic and public sectors across Europe is aimed at giving students the education, practical and scientific skills they need to find employment in the cutting edge biotechnology sector.
“It will identify and expand good practices from each country involved and encourage mutual learning, enhancing dialogue between European industries and academics in the Blue Biotechnology field.””
A delegation from Argyll and Bute Council – including representatives from local businesses and a social enterprise – visited a district in Germany which has transformed its own economy and successfully reversed a decline in its population.
The recent trip to Amberg-Sulzbach in Bavaria focussed on economic growth, sharing best practice and promoting Argyll and Bute to the international European market.
Councillor Aileen Morton, Policy Lead for Sustainable Economic Growth, said:
“Growing our population and the local economy was very much on the agenda during the highly successful visit. Following the EU referendum result, it is even more important that the Council maintains and strengthens our European ties and partners. In this respect the visit to Amberg-Sulzbach, which is overcoming the same challenges that we are experiencing in Argyll and Bute, was important and enlightening.
Reversing a population decline will bring people and jobs to the area and as a consequence help protect funding for future services.”
As part of the delegation representatives from Argyll and Bute businesses – specialising in forestry, marine biology (linked to renewable energy), agriculture and farming – benefitted greatly from trips to an applied sciences institute, an organic farm – that has diversified into renewable energy production and tourism – and a centre for renewable energies and sustainability.
The itinerary also included visits to see care-at-home facilities for the elderly, restored buildings using LEADER funding, an events venue located in a refurbished and converted barn and a social enterprise providing accommodation, support and employment for adults with special needs.
The district of Amberg-Sulzbach is similar to Argyll and Bute in many ways. It has a population of approximately 100,000 people which has previously experienced a decline – which has now been reversed – and almost 40% of its landscape is made up of forest.
Next year sees the 50th anniversary of the twinning of Argyll and Bute and Amberg-Sulzbach and during the trip the delegates agreed to take forward the partnership with a focus on economic growth, environmental services, area regeneration and cultural exchange.
Councillor Morton concluded: “Internationalisation is a priority for Scotland and Argyll and Bute’s economy. By strengthening our links with the global economy we can increase trade, attract investment and share expertise.”
Dr J Douglas McKenzie, of Oban-based marine biotechnology specialists, Xanthella, said:
“The valuable exchange visit showed there are genuine business co-operation opportunities for both Argyll and Bute and Amberg-Sulzbach to learn from each other particularly in the areas of forestry, tourism and food and drink. Although faced by challenges the Bavarian district has also done a lot to encourage its industrial sector.”
Culture and young people also played an important part of the itinerary with the Council’s visit coinciding with the first leg of a youth exchange project with 10 young people from Oban, Bute and Helensburgh spending a week meeting with Bavarian young peoples.
The programme included workshops on health and well-being as well as canoeing, climbing and a trip to the city of Munich. A return visit by the German group to Argyll and Bute is scheduled for Easter next year.”
Xanthella Ltd are very pleased to announce the start of a new pioneering project to bring new industry to rural areas of Scotland using renewable energy to produce high value products.
The £2M, two-year project is led by Xanthella and will be in partnership with ALIenergy, VCharge, University of the West of Scotland, FAI Aquaculture, SgurrEnergy, Woodland Renewables and the University of Stirling’s Marine Environment Research Laboratory at Machrihanish.
The ASLEE project (Algal Solutions for Local Energy Economy) has been awarded £500,000 from the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund to fund the first year of feasibility studies. If this is successful then in the second year a large scale algal production facility will be built at Ardnamurchan. This will be the largest algal production facility in the UK and will help unlock the potential of locally owned renewable energy to transform the prospects of communities and industry in some of our most remote areas.
The process is ideal for matching with intermittent renewable energy generation, using the energy at times when it is abundant and cheap, and providing a valuable grid balancing service at the same time.
Project Leader Dr Douglas McKenzie, CEO at Xanthella, said: “We are delighted that our project has been chosen by the Local Energy Challenge Fund to test out what is an exciting and hugely innovative venture for us in Scotland. Scotland has massive potential for expanding its use of renewable energy but problems with our electrical grid structure mean that much of this potential cannot be used. If we had new uses for the electricity near where the renewable electricity is produced then we could remove this constraint.
“Microalgae are a hugely versatile industrial product. We already use them in local aquaculture but actually fly them in from Japan and the USA rather than manufacture them locally. This project has the potential to allow us to develop renewable production in our remote and rural areas much faster than we are currently doing and to make algal production much cheaper. All of this means more jobs and a better economy for some of the most remote and vulnerable areas in Scotland”.
The ASLEE Project Partners
Xanthella Ltd: An Argyll-based SME, Xanthella designs and manufactures equipment for algal biomanufacturing and research. It leads the ASLEE project with its Chief Executive, Dr Douglas McKenzie acting as the project’s coordinator. Xanthella are also responsible for leading the technical programme, stakeholder engagement and project legacy.
ALIenergy Ltd: Argyll, Lomond and the Islands Energy Ltd is the energy agency for Argyll and is a charity limited by guarantee, with a commitment to promote sustainable energy use and renewable energy generation, to address fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions. It provides the secretariat for the project and is responsible for dissemination. www.alienergy.org.uk
Woodlands Renewables Ltd / Ardnamurchan Estate: – provides a grid constrained, rural location for the main PBR array. The estate has a track record in innovation taking advantage of technology, already having wind, hydro, biomass and wave generators on site, and plans for further development. www.ardnamurchanestate.co.uk
SgurrEnergy: leading renewable energy consultancy providing engineering and technical advisory services in onshore and offshore wind, solar, wave and tidal and hydro projects. It has been involved in community energy projects spanning its 14 year history and is currently working to develop innovative renewable energy solutions in remote communities. SgurrEnergy will provide support on integration with existing and planned renewable energy projects. www.sgurrenergy.com
University of Stirling / Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (MERL), Machrihanish: part of the Institute of Aquaculture and ranked top among UK institutions focusing on aquaculture research. MERL will provide nutritional analysis of algae, investigating the effects of light periodicity and intermittency on nutritional composition and the effects of nutrient supply in relation to fluctuations in light regime in order to optimise the nutritional quality of algal products. www.fishresearch.co.uk/facilities/merl
VCharge UK Ltd: delivers services to electric grid operators and other electricity market participants using Aggregated Transactive Load. They currently deliver grid services on six grids in five countries. VCharge will help develop the parameters within which the PBRs will be able to lower energy costs and will also design the load control interface and algorithms to actually deliver those grid services. www.vcharge-energy.com
FAI Aquaculture / Ardtoe Marine Research Facility: carries out a wide range of applied R&D projects in the area of marine aquaculture including large scale commercial culture of a wide range of microalgae species. They will test and compare the cost effective productivity and nutritional quality of a range of algal species by the PBR, focusing on its application for oyster production. www.faifarms.com/our-locations/scotland/
University of the West Scotland: UWS is a leading-edge modern university committed to accessibility and wide geographical coverage across the West of Scotland. It has significant research and knowledge-exchange expertise in business start-up, business processes, renewable energy and rural development. UWS provides the project with business strategy, financial, economic and market analysis expertise and also technical expertise in electrical and engineering technologies. www.uws.ac.uk
Xanthella engineer Ian Stark challenged with designing McKenzie tartan light sheet for CEO
Xanthella’s talented engineer Ian Stark rose to the challenge of creating a McKenzie tartan LED light tile for our CEO Dr Douglas McKenzie and in the process managed to create one for the MacFarlane and Robertson tartans too! We are very proud to have such a creative team and it’s safe to say we all relish the chance to be put through our paces, especially when we get to have a bit of fun in the process.
We’ve already started on ideas for next year’s Oban Raft Race. Watch this space!
Xanthella are working with ALIenergy to produce a plan for an ambitious project that has the potential to provide new biomanufacturing industry for remote and rural areas. Places such as the West Coast of Scotland and its islands would be ideal sites for the production of renewable electricity but their distance from users of electricity mean that these areas are severely grid constrained.
Growing algae to produce high value products might be a way of using more locally generated electricity thus removing some of the grid constraint and allowing such areas to realise their potential. By co-locating the algae production facilities near to other sources of nutrients and CO2 (such as distilleries), the input feedstock costs for algal production could be greatly reduced.
Examples of suitable products could include live algae for aquaculture hatcheries, Omega 3 supplements for salmon feed and enhanced cattle feeds – all of which could be used locally.
Xanthella and ALIenergy are forging a strong consortium of suppliers, partners and end users to pursue the project. If the project is successful in its bid for funding then the project could start as early as April 2016 with the creation of two pilot algal production plants at different sites in Argyll and the Highlands.