Transport Engineering

Micro-organisms such as yeasts, fungi and bacteria are excellent producers of valuable components such as antibiotics, amino acids, specialty carbohydrates, medicinal proteins, chemicals, etc. With the recent advances in synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, also exogenous compounds are now successfully produced. However, these molecules are not always readily secreted by the cell. Indeed, many molecules accumulate intracellularly where they can cause harmful or inhibiting effects or are metabolized by the host cells. Furthermore, intracellular production requires additional cell lysis and purification steps, rendering product recovery and purification more complex and expensive.

So it is clear that cellular export or secretion should be aimed for to overcome the previous mentioned drawbacks. BioPort fully invests in this emerging topic by developing an analytical platform to monitor export and by engineering cellular transport on several classic and innovative ways.

For more information on this topic and possible collaborations, please contact Prof. Inge Van Bogaert.


Surfactants or surface-active compounds are a structurally diverse group of molecules consisting of hydrophilic and hydrophobic domains that tend to partition preferentially at the interface between fluid phases. Surfactants are widely used in the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and cleaning industries. Throughout the years surfactants have been produced from petrochemical raw materials. During the last decades the environmental awareness has become more important issues in the study, development and application of surfactants. In this respect micro-organisms are a potential source of (novel) biodegradable surfactants. With the advantages of biodegradability, low ecotoxicity and the production on renewable-resource substrates, biosurfactants may eventually replace their chemically synthesized counterparts.

Most known biosurfactants are glycolipids. They are carbohydrates in combination with long-chain aliphatic acids or hydroxyalyphatic acids. One of the most promising glycolipids are sophorolipids. They are produced in high amounts by yeasts such as Starmerella bombicola and consist out of the dissacharide sophorose linked to a long-chain hydroxy fatty acid. We performed pioneering work regarding the development of molecular tools for this unconventional yeast and elucidated the core sophorolipid biochemical pathway. This opened doors for advanced engineering of the yeast and turning it into a versatile production platform for tailored glycolipids and other biomolecules.

For more information on this topic and possible collaborations, please contact Prof. Inge Van Bogaert.