GlobalYeast, the key to scale up bio-ethanol production


Say hello to a new startup! GlobalYeast was born last week from a partnership between the Belgian research institute VIB and the Brazilian venture capital company Performa Investimentos.

This Brazilian-European association isn’t only going to be about money, but also about people! GlobalYeast is split between Brazil,  where the team will focus on the business development aspects, and Belgium for R&D in VIB’s bio-incubator facilities. The executive board is led by Marcelo do Amaral, CEO, and Johan Thevelein, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO). Together, they were able to raise €6.25M from a consortium of venture capital composed by the Belgian Gemma Frisius Fund and SOFI in addition of Performa Investimentos and VIB.

But what exactly is GlobalYeast doing? They arrived on the market with the attention to address a major issue in the industrialization of bioprocesses : its efficiency. Ethanol conversion from waste streams have been studied for years, yet until only very recently, not all biomasses could be transformed to final products. Hopefully, this will soon be history thanks to the work of Johan Thevelein’s lab, which created genetically engineered yeasts able to convert the total amount of sugar to ethanol.

To do so, the research team crossed an ethanol–tolerant Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain with the new D-xylose fermenting industrial strain GS1.11-26, then screened over 800 of the resulting hybrids for the desired traits. From this screening, three strains combining ethanol tolerance, higher glucose consumption and higher aerobic growth rates were selected.

“Our new yeast strains come at a good moment because the entire industry of second-generation biofuels has now clearly come quite a bit closer to becoming economically viable. We are working at full capacity to further improve our yeast strains in order to continue to increase the efficiency of the fermentations, and in this way we hope to further strengthen our leadership position in this burgeoning industrial sector.” said Pr. Thevelein.

GlobalYeast could really bring the solution that will finally unlock the potential of bioethanol production from waste and allow it to achieve actual industrialization. That’s all we can wish them!

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