FEMS Yeast Research Article Award 2021

11-02-22 cameronw1986

Brigitte Gasser, Özge Ata, Burcu Gündüz Ergün, Patrick Fickers, Lina Heistinger, Diethard Mattanovich and Corinna Rebnegger are the winners of the 2021 best article award from FEMS Yeast Research. Their winning MiniReview titled What makes Komagataella phaffii non-conventional? recevied the most votes from the Editorial Board recognizing its insightful nature.

We interviewed all of the authors to find out more about the inspiration behind their MiniReview:

Top left to right: Brigitte Gasser, Özge Ata, Burcu Gündüz Ergün, Patrick Fickers, Bottom left to right: Lina Heistinger, Diethard Mattanovich and Corinna Rebnegger

Could you provide a bit of context into what Komagataella phaffii is?

Komagataella phaffiii (formerly known as Pichia pastoris) is one of the 1500 known yeast species found in nature. It lives naturally on trees and it has the exceptional ability to use methanol as its feed. Biotechnologists use it for the production of biopharmaceutical proteins (like vaccines, insulin, antibodies), and it has great potential for the production of biobased chemicals, to replace products made from fossil resources.” 


Could you provide a brief, simple overview of the topic your MiniReview covers?

Yeasts, other than the well-known baker’s yeast, are called non-conventional yeasts. But what makes them non-conventional, besides the simple fact not to be the “standard” yeast? We review thoroughly which biochemical and genetic differences make K. phaffii outstanding and really not “conventional” in the positive meaning.”

Non-conventional features render the yeast K. phaffii an attractive model organism and an efficient host for biotechnology applications.


What encouraged you to review research in this area of microbiology? 

We have worked on genetics and physiology of K. phaffii for years and became more and more fascinated by the many outstanding features of this yeast which make it so useful in biotechnology, as well as a study object for cell biology, metabolism and evolution. Just to give an example: different to baker’s yeast, K. phaffii has nearly no gene duplications, however for its most unique metabolic capability, the utilization of methanol, it has evolved a full set of duplicated genes – the evolutionary origin of which is still puzzling us.” 


What do you see as the next steps in this area of research?

Now that the genome is well annotated, major metabolic pathways are understood and modeled, and most tools for genome editing are established, it is timely to study regulation of metabolism and cell proliferation in its interlaced complexity and its meaning for biotech applications. Especially the feature to assimilate single carbon molecules like methanol makes K. phaffii extremely interesting as a platform strain for a CO2 based bioeconomy – either employing green methanol as a feedstock that is derived from CO2 by electrocatalysis, or formate and directly CO2 with the aid of engineered strains. On the other hand, its excellent secretory features will substantiate K. phaffii´s position as a protein production host, and in addition to the traditional applications for biopharmaceutical proteins make it one of the top choices for producing feed and food proteins.” 


Read the 2021 award winning paper: What makes Komagataella phaffii non-conventional?

See more FEMS Journals Article Awards

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