Engineering yeast to enable chemical synthesis from methanol

Project title: Engineering yeast to enable chemical synthesis from methanol

Application Domain: Chemicals & Fibres


The challenge

Our reliance on chemical processing of oil for chemical, fuel, and food production is not sustainable, and is environmentally destructive. Engineering yeast to make these products is predicted to be the most viable alternative to oil refining, yet yeast require sugars and arable land for growth, creating competition with the human food supply.

Our response

The project aims to help solve this problem by enabling chemical production from methanol using yeast. Methanol can be sourced from the methane that is generated from landfills, natural gas, and municipal waste, or from the carbon dioxide that is created by burning organic waste. Using methanol to feed yeast for the production of chemicals, fuels, and foods is therefore an attractive alternative to using sugars because waste materials can be used in place of valuable arable land.


This project will provide platform yeast strains that grow efficiently on methanol, enabling the use of organic waste or natural gas for the biological production of chemicals, fuels, pharmaceuticals, and foods. These processes will enable economic independence from both oil and sugar in the future, paving the way for a sustainable bio-economy.

Flow diagram


The team comprises of CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Fellow Dr Tom Williams, Professor Ian Paulsen and Monica Espinosa (Macquarie University), Dr Colin Scott (CSIRO), and Dr Esteban Marcellin at The Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (The University of Queensland).