9 May 2013

Microbial Biotechnology

From Our Changing World, 9:36 pm on 9 May 2013

Silas Villas-Boas from the Centre for Microbial Innovation at the University of Auckland works in the area of metabolomics and metabolic engineering. He researches the physiology of microbes such as fungi and bacteria and is particularly interested in the metabolic mechanisms that take place within living cells.

Silas tells Alison Ballance that he’s always on the lookout for natural products and processes that can be commercialised, and he is investigating microbes as potential sources of natural colours and flavours that the food industry could use. He has already identified and patented three water-soluble yellow-orange colours from New Zealand bacteria, one of which also has anti-fungal properties and is about to be released as a commercial sprayable product.

Silas is also investigating the effects of audible sound on the growth and development of microbes, and already has some interesting results. Honours student Matheus Vargas explains his work with a protein, and summer student Chris Ferry talks about his work with wine yeast, which includes the surprising result that yeast cells exposed to sound produce more ethanol than those grown in silence.