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. 

Related content:

Researchers developing safe and affordable way to produce antibodies with aim of global access to treatment

New method uses yeast to grow antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.


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:

Modification of the endoplasmic reticulum morphology enables improved recombinant antibody expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Laura R.K. Niemelä, Essi V. Koskela, Alexander D. Frey 2024 Journal of Biotechnology

Thermodynamically controlled multiphase separation of heterogeneous liquid crystal colloids

Han Tao, Carlo Rigoni, Hailong Li, Antti Koistinen, Jaakko V.I. Timonen, Jiancheng Zhou, Eero Kontturi, Orlando J. Rojas, Guang Chu 2023 Nature Communications

Similarity Index for the Fat Fraction between Breast Milk and Infant Formulas

Sanna Hokkanen, Alexander D. Frey, Baoru Yang, Kaisa M. Linderborg 2022 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Production of galactosylated complex-type N-glycans in glycoengineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Mari A. Piirainen, Heidi Salminen, Alexander D. Frey 2022 Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

The Impact of Glycoengineering on the Endoplasmic Reticulum Quality Control System in Yeasts

Mari A. Piirainen, Alexander D. Frey 2022 Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences

Polysaccharide utilization loci-driven enzyme discovery reveals BD-FAE

Lisanne Hameleers, Leena Penttinen, Martina Ikonen, Léa Jaillot, Régis Fauré, Nicolas Terrapon, Peter J. Deuss, Nina Hakulinen, Emma R. Master, Edita Jurak 2021 Biotechnology for Biofuels

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

Production of Glucose 6-Phosphate From a Cellulosic Feedstock in a One Pot Multi-Enzyme Synthesis

Anne Usvalampi, He Li, Alexander D. Frey 2021 Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology

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
More information on our research in the Aalto research portal.
Research portal
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