It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss yeast’s growing role in the bioeconomy with George Freeman MP, Minister for Life Sciences and Jackie Hunter, CEO of BBSRC, on their recent visit to the IFR Biorefinery.
As they observed, the tiny single-celled fungi we call yeasts are nature’s re-cyclers and have been an important part of environmental food chains ever since emerging from the primeval swamp. With the advent of new biotechnological processes driving a new industrial revolution, the huge gene pool that yeasts have assembled over the past 100 million years or so (give or take a few decades!) will find many applications in improving production of bio-based fuels and chemicals.
Efficient conversion of agrifood waste in the biorefinery is an important aspect of this revolution and higher yields and increased tolerance to industrial stresses are just two areas where yeast biodiversity can contribute.
In addition to providing natural solutions to effective waste utilisation, biological collections such as the NCYC will have a vital role to play in maintaining and distributing the new industrial work horses arising from synthetic biology, becoming in effect app stores for the new industrial biotechnology.