Microalgae is a hugely diverse group with a significant biotechnology potential, particularly in the cosmeceutical and nutraceutical market. But we still have much to learn about their biology and exploitability. Prof. Alison Smith’s group in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge have been looking into how algal-bacterial relationships enhance algal productivity, nutrient inputs and prevent contamination by pathogenic bacteria – a major problem in commercial processes. However, cryopreservation is so far the only method able to guarantee the successful and long-lasting preservation of these delicate algal cultures. Chris Ridley from Prof. Smith’s lab has recently been working with Prof. John Day at the Scottish Association for Marine Science/University of the Highlands and Islands to develop a novel co-cryopreservation method that ensures maximum post-thaw viability (PTV) of both algae and bacteria, maintaining the symbiotic interaction – this is a critical step for the successful exploitation of this technology.
This work is the first demonstration of the potential for long-term storage of microbial consortia, specifically algal/bacterial consortia, for industrial biotechnology and is currently been written up for submission to a scientific journal.