Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems

Molecular biotechnology

The molecular biotechnology group led by Prof. Alexander Frey aims at the rational design and engineering of molecular and cellular factories for production of enzymes, proteins and other biologically active compounds that can be used in foods, as drugs or in many other industrial applications.
Alexander Frey_Aalto-yliopisto_Mikko Raskinen

Our research areas:

  1. Engineering of yeast for production of recombinant proteins and biochemicals

  2. Enzymatic production and modification of biologically-active oligosaccharides

 We believe in the power of living cells used as cellular factories that can contribute to solving humanities’ grand challenges.

In all our research activities we follow synthetic biology and systems biology inspired approaches and combine them with the power of high-throughput screening and state-of-the-art analytics.

CHEM_Bio_Molecular technology lab

Research themes:



Bakers's yeast as a test bed:

Yeast has been used for thousands of years to make food and drink. More recently, yeast has also been scientifically well studied and used in the production of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, secondary metabolites or bioenergy. Using baker’s yeast as a working horse, we create new ways to make “tried and tested” products – however in a more efficient way as in the existing production methods.

Engineering biology: From isolated molecular components via modules to complex living systems:

In nature, the most basic active entities are proteins, which besides serving as structural elements, function as regulatory molecules or catalysts. Proteins exhibiting defined regulatory or catalytic activities can be assembled into functionally active modules, and these modules can be assembled into complex systems that can fulfill the desired tasks.

Oligosaccharide-based active ingredients:

Carbohydrates are ubiquitous molecules with very diverse functions ranging from energy source to structural elements in cells. Furthermore, certain oligosaccharides such as N-glycans have the ability to modulate the functions and properties of proteins they are attached to. However, in recent years it has become clear that oligosaccharides themselves can modulate many biological processes. Together with Valio we explore novel ways to build bioactive oligosaccharides that could be produced in an industrial scale and used as active ingredients in food applications.

Metagenomics: new functionalities from nature:

To match the ever-growing need for novel bioproducts and pharmaceuticals, metagenomics is as an alternative method for isolation of novel enzymes and pathways. In this approach all the DNA found in an environmental sample is isolated and transferred to a surrogate host for functional expression and testing. Using this method, new enzymes can be discovered. 

Research group members:

Related content:

Alexander Frey wants to cut health costs with specialised yeast

The Professor of Molecular biotechnology has harnessed a hardy workforce for tasks such as manufacturing cheap medicines and biofuels.

Alexander Frey_Aalto-yliopisto_Mikko Raskinen

Latest publications:

Partitioning of the milk fat globule membrane between buttermilk and butter serum is determined by the thermal behaviour of the fat globules

Sanna P. Hokkanen, Riitta Partanen, Annamari Jukkola, Alexander D. Frey, Orlando Rojas Gaona 2021 International Dairy Journal

Mining Data From Plasma Cell Differentiation Identified Novel Genes for Engineering of a Yeast Antibody Factory

Essi V. Koskela, Alina Gonzalez Salcedo, Mari A. Piirainen, Heidi A. Iivonen, Heidi Salminen, Alexander D. Frey 2020 FRONTIERS IN BIOENGINEERING AND BIOTECHNOLOGY

Production and characterization of Aspergillus niger GH29 family α-fucosidase and production of a novel non-reducing 1-fucosyllactose

Anne Usvalampi, Marcela Ruvalcaba Medrano, Hannu Maaheimo, Heidi Salminen, Olli Tossavainen, Alexander D. Frey 2020 Glycoconjugate Journal

Biocatalytic Production of Amino Carbohydrates through Oxidoreductase and Transaminase Cascades

Ville Aumala, Filip Mollerup, Edita Jurak, Fabian Blume, Johanna Karppi, Antti E. Koistinen, Eva Schuiten, Moritz Voß, Uwe Bornscheuer, Jan Deska, Emma R. Master 2019 ChemSusChem

Effect of in-situ hydrogen forming reagents on hydrothermolysis of organosolv lignin

Farhan Hashmi, Leena Pitkänen, Anne Usvalampi, Kyösti Ruuttunen, Herbert Sixta 2019

Tailoring N-Glycan Biosynthesis for Production of Therapeutic Proteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Mari A. Piirainen, Heidi Salminen, Alexander D. Frey 2019 Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)
More information on our research in the Research database.
Research database
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