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  • Mengxun Shi

The optimal resource of the future?

We were enthusiastic to dive into the virtual Algal BBB 2021 conference last week. Although constrained by the pandemic, it was still a rare opportunity to meet hundreds of researchers online from all over the world with fantastic presentations and posters. Topics focused on a range of beautiful algae- from unicellular to multicellular and from freshwater to marine. The event never failed to inspire and remind us that this is a really promising biotechnology microorganism. Algae can be used to produce lots of products, from biopolymers to therapeutics, but also more surprising applications such as crop protection and roles within the space station program. Molecular engineering and synthetic biology are emerging up-stream techniques to improve algae productivity, although process enhancements are being trialled to make it a more suitable for scale up in downstream methods. There were excellent presentations including using nutrients from wastewater and reducing the cultivation and process costs through novel bioreactor/biocatalyst design. I’m looking forward to presenting my own work on synthetic co-cultures next year, which I really hope will be in person, although this year’s event did showcase a “greener” option!

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