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The production of alcohols as commodity chemicals/ biofuels using yeast as a vehicle

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

Crude oil represents probably the most important natural resource to industrial nations. As well as fuel, crude oil is used to produce a host of chemicals that govern modern day life. For instance, a simple item of furniture like a sofa has been estimated to contain 60L of oil once all the foam and insulating material is accounted for. However, supplies of crude oil are limited and alternative strategies for the production of useful petrochemicals are being actively sought.

Two such chemicals are butanol and 2,3 butanediol, (23BD). Butanol has been widely publicised as a potential alternative to gasoline, although it also has a variety of uses in the chemical industry. 23BD is used in the manufacture of a myriad of synthetic materials. It has applications in the production of bulk solvents, synthetic rubber, cosmetics, food additives, perfumes and drugs. Furthermore, 23BD and its downstream products are being considered as potential fuels or fuel additives.

These factors have raised interest in biotechnological routes to produce such commodity chemicals. Feedstocks from waste material such as lignocellulosic and cellulosic materials offer a preferred source of carbohydrate as they avoid competition with food production. A key focus of this project will be to generate yeast strains that can use such renewable feedstock to produce optimal yields of butanol and 23BD. Key advantages to yeast are the fact that it is a GRAS organism, the availability of complex yeast metabolic models, the ease of genetic manipulation and the vast knowledge of fermentation technology. Therefore, the underlying hypothesis to be tested in this project is that a combination of metabolic engineering, mathematical modelling, synthetic biology and process engineering can be applied to optimise the yield and purity of butanol and 23BD from renewable carbon sources in yeast.

Funding Notes

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject. Candidates with experience in microbiology or with an interest in biotechnology are encouraged to apply.

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).

Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


Swidah R, Ogunlabi O, Grant CM, Ashe MP. (2018) n-butanol production in S. cerevisiae: co-ordinate use of endogenous and exogenous pathways. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. In Press.

Swidah R, Wang H, Reid PJ, Ahmed HZ, Pisanelli AM, Persaud KC, Grant CM, Ashe MP. (2015) Butanol production in S. cerevisiae via a synthetic ABE pathway is enhanced by specific metabolic engineering and butanol resistance. Biotechnol Biofuels. 8:97

Egbe NE, Paget CM, Wang H, Ashe MP. (2015) Alcohols inhibit translation to regulate morphogenesis in C. albicans. Fungal Genet Biol. 77:50-60.

Egbe NE, Dornelles TO, Paget CM, Castelli LM, Ashe MP. (2017) Farnesol inhibits translation to limit growth and filamentation in C. albicans and S. cerevisiae. Microb Cell. 4:294-304.

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