PhD project 14: Fatty Alcohol Production in Yarrowia lipolytica

In the process of moving towards a more sustainable relation with our ecosphere, microbial cell factories has risen as a promising alternative to our current production practices. In recent years, the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica have gathered some interest, among other things, for the production ‘fatty acid’-derived compounds.
This projects aims to contribute to the development of the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica as a cell factory, and particular interest is paid to the production of fatty alcohols. This includes both strain construction, for the testing of hypotheses, and the development of Yarrowia lipolytica tools, for simplified and fine-tuned cellular engineering. The data and insights generated during the project will, hopefully, increase our understanding of Yarrowia lipolytica and prove useful for future engineering efforts, both within academia and industry.
The project is in collaboration with EPFL and the Norwegian biorefinery Borregaard.
PhD project 15: Engineering of autotrophic yeast: towards a truly sustainable bio-based industry

The objective of the project is to create a yeast strain that can utilize CO2 as the carbon source and H2 as the energy source, a.k.a. an autotrophic yeast. Naturally, yeasts obtain both carbon and energy from organic compounds like sugars, but usage of sugars for production of fuels and chemicals on industrial scale is not optimal due to the high cost and competition with food production. Utilizing autotrophic yeast for large-scale production of bio-based chemicals will not only reduce production cost, but also reduce the current greenhouse gases level and save us from a more severe climate change.  This project is in collaboration with EnobraQ (France).

Project 16: Lactone production from fatty substrates

Lactone molecules, especially those with gamma and delta ring and 8-16 carbons are used for flavor ingredients. The production of these lactones, however, required specific substrates obtained from plants. This necessity is a great disadvantage to the biocatalytic process due to costs in raw material pretreatment and abundance of side products which can contain toxic compounds. It also hampers production sustainability due to the low yield of some plant oils, long cultivations times, land clearing, and social conflicts in land usage. We propose an alternative approach, where engineered cell factories are used to produce the desired lactones from cheap fatty feedstocks. We employ oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica for this purpose as it is capable of efficient uptake of fatty compounds as well as increasing availability of genetic tools for this organism.

Dr. Irina Borodina

Research Interests


Originally trained as a chemical engineer, I got fascinated how simple unicellular microorganisms can perform thousands of reactions simultaneously and work as true small chemical factories. I did my PhD on genome-scale modeling of Streptomyces and worked on developing recombinant allergy vaccines during my PostDoc. My current research focuses on metabolic engineering of yeast to create novel cell factories for production of bio-based chemicals.

About Projects

About the Lab

My lab currently hosts 4 PostDocs, 2 PhD students and 2 Research Assistants. We come from nine different countries and are trained as biologists, engineers, brewers, etc., which adds to the creativity and diversity in our research. We work as a team with extensive knowledge and expertise sharing and we are always happy to help each other with ideas, troubleshooting of experiments and other challenges.

In the past few years we have developed genetic tools, which facilitate iterative cycles of strain development for yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Yarrowia lipolytica, and we created cell factories for production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid, resveratrol, p-coumaric acid, flavonoids and other chemicals. The group also carries out research on methodologies for accelerated rational strain design, based on systems biology-level data, such as fluxome, transcriptome, metabolome, and genome-scale modeling. The lab is a part of The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability at Technical University of Denmark and enjoys the access to the state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment.

Read more about Yeast Metabolic Engineering.