Author: Isma Belouah

Students of the MSc. Biological and Chemical Engineering for a Sustainable Bio-economy

Four Erasmus Mundus Students of the MSc. Biological and Chemical Engineering for a Sustainable Bio-economy joined our group until June. Ariyan Amirifar, Belén Fernández de Caleya Ramiro, George William Ssendagala and José Gustavo Varona García will develop a metabolically engineered yeast strain of R. toruloides that will use lignocellulosic biomass (Brewer’s Spent Grain – BSG) as a substrate to produce monoterpenes. The produced terpenes shall be used (instead of hops) during fermentation to produce the distinctive beer flavor. This project will ultimately contribute to circularity in the brewing industry by supporting the valorization of BSG to create a useful product that can in turn be used by the same brewing industry.

Seminar by Dr. Francesco Gatto, co-founder and CSO of Elypta

In this seminar, Dr. Francesco Gatto illustrates how his group investigated regulation of cancer metabolism using systems biology approaches leading to the discovery of potential cancer biomarkers for early detection. The talk further focuses on the challenge to translate fundamental discoveries in clinical practice and the foundation of Elypta – a start-up university spin-off that is executing this transition.

PhD seminar

On Friday 18th of february, our three freshly started PhD students gave a seminar to introduce their working plans.

  1. Alina Reķena – Advanced modeling approaches in yeast

The presentation introduced basic principles of constraint-based modeling together with advanced modeling techniques, such as proteome allocation and thermodynamics-based constraints. Current project is focused on model development for non-conventional yeast Rhodotorula toruloides.

2. Gabriel Luz Chaves – Engineering R. toruloides for improved lipid production

In this seminar was discussed the use of non-conventional yeast, R. toruloides, for the production of lipids and the application of synthetic biology tools for strain improvement.

3. Henrique Sepulveda – Development of 3D printed engineered living materials for growth-decoupled biochemicals production

The topics of 3D printing and engineered living materials for biochemicals production was introduced in this seminar. Followed by a talk about our current research goals for the Ph.D. Project.

From left: Gabriel, Henrique and Alina


Feel free to watch the seminar record

Pilot up-scale cultivations

In the course of the PERFECOAT project, Nemailla Bonturi and Petri Lahtvee visited Technical University of Munich (TUM, Straubing, Germany) to perform for the first time to our knowledge industrial scale (30L bioreactor) cultivations of R. toruloides in xylose-rich hydrolysate (Fibenol, Estonia).

Slide Anja Schmid (TUM), Torben Hüsing (TUM),
Petri-Jaan Lahtvee (Taltech),
and Nemailla Bonturi (Taltech)
Slide Redish frozen pellet of R. toruloides
biomass containing high content of carotenoids.
Slide Coating material produced
using R. toruloides biomass
as binders.

Yeast4Bio Training School

On September 13-17h happened the first Yeast4Bio Training School financed by the COST agency and  coordinated by Jose L. Martinez (Associate Professor and Head of Fermentation core in the Technical University of Denmark). Our group member, Gintarė Liudžiūtė learned there fundamental knowledge of fermentation design and analysis applied to non-conventional yeasts which are used as cell factories for high-value compounds production. Attending to the first Yeast4Bio Training School was a significant personal and professional opportunity to develop scientific competences into our group.


On the 28th of October 2021 (14h- 16h) a seminar will be given by Petri-Jaan Lahtvee (Assoc. Professor) on Circular Economy at ALU Freiburg (Germany), one of the partner in the Local Electron Delivery in Bioinks for Efficient Yeast Cell Factories project. 

This project of the Baltic-German University Liaison Office is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funds from the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic Germany.


Here the link to access the conference


New students

Two new students have joined the group. Supported by Dora Plus scholarship both PhD students from Brazil, Luísa Czamanski and Julianno Sabedotti De Biaggi, will work 6 and 3 months on R. toruloides, respectively. Luísa will focus on engineering R. toruloides strains capable of producing terpenes, which have a wide range of applications such as precursors of renewable fuels. Julianno will focus on R. toruloides carotenoid metabolism by expressing the enzyme phytoene desaturase from multiple phyla of Fungi in Escherichia coli and analysing its activity on different substrates in vitro.

New student
 Artjom Tšitšerin, a high school student at Tallinn Central Russian Gymnasium, has joined our group to curate the carotenoid pathway by investigating whether overexpressing an heterologous xylulokinase in R. Toruloides could improve carotenoid yield.
New manuscript on 3D printing of living materials

We are excited to announce a new publication on 3D printing of living materials. In this ACS – Applied Bio Materials publication led by Tobias Butelmann, we examined the permissibility of oxygen in hydrogels and how yeast metabolism functions in response to immobilization.

This publication results from our TalTech research group’s ongoing fruitful collaboration with the Alshakim Nelson’s Laboratory  at University of Washington and Tarmo Tamm’s Laboratory at Tartu University.

Congrats to all co-authors for the fantastic achievement!








Congrats to all the authors for their great work!

Upcoming Guest Seminar about Living Materials

During his research visit at TalTech, our partner from ALU Freiburg, Tobias Butelmann, will give a seminar (seminar room SCI-109 or online here) about living materials and the current project about Local Electron Delivery in Bioinks for Efficient Yeast Cell Factories. The seminar will be publicly available. Since this project is highly interdisciplinary, we invite all interested people to join this seminar!


Date: 06 August 2021, 11:00 – 12:00.



Abstract: The need for sustainable processes to produce value-added chemicals and materials displays a major challenge of our time. Engineered microbes have the proven power to solve these challenges, as more efficient processes are required in terms of the cell factory as well as the cultivation performance. Bioprocesses currently used in industry are primarily based on batch and fed-batch mode, where yields and productivities have peaked and require technological innovations to uplift this cap on productivities. Additive manufacturing technologies can provide opportunities to move beyond traditional processes and empower a new industrial revolution. 3D printing can be applied together with engineered microbes to print living materials with superior properties to common suspension cultures used in biorefineries. Those living materials consist of a bioink that encapsulates the host organism – a cell factory for the desired product.

One bottleneck in engineered microbes is the regeneration of co-factors, which are critical for their efficiency. To overcome this, special conductible bioinks for living materials can be designed that help embedded microbes by the delivery of electrons for co-factor regeneration. The successful implementation of such a platform has the potential to increase the efficiency of engineered microbes by multiples and, hence, create sustainable biorefinery processes.


This project of the Baltic-German University Liaison Office is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funds from the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic Germany.


3D printing project

Tobias Butelmann, a former member (2018-2019) of Petris’ group will be visiting us next August. The collaboration entitled Local Electron Delivery in Bioinks for Efficient Yeast Cell Factories will provide valuable knowledge and inputs for 3D printing project. This project of the Baltic-German University Liaison Office is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funds from the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic Germany.


New projects started – Perfecoat and SAFE

We are excited to announce the start of two interdisciplinary international projects PERFECOAT – High performance bio-based Functional coatings for wood and decorative applications – with funding from Horizon2002 Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking; and SAFE – Sustainable Aquaculture Feed Based on Novel Biomass from Wood By-products, funded by NordForsk.


New publication is out now!

We have a new publication “Screening and growth characterization of non-conventional yeasts in a hemicellulosic hydrolysate” published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. Here we have characterized the consumption profiles and growth patterns of nine non-Saccharomyces yeast strains on an industrial hemicellulosic hydrolysate, provided by our partners from Graanul Biotech.


Congrats to all the authors Paola, Daria, Nemailla and Petri.


For full text, please click here.

Thesis graduations in 2021

Next Friday (4th of June) Alina Rekena will defend her Master’s degree at the University of Tartu. Alina carried out a large-scale study characterizing R. toruloides growth on different substrates and creating enzyme constrained genome-scale metabolic models. Her work will be a keystone to engineer carotenoid and lipid yields in R. toruloides. 



Daria defended her bachelor’s thesis “Characterisation of non-conventional yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus in lignocellulosic hydrolysate” on 31st of May with the highest grade.