Extremophiles

Iceland is often called the land of Fire and Ice, referring to our volcanic activity with adjacent hot springs and the glaciers all around the country. In this hostile environment, our researchers seek unique microbes in hot springs and in the marine environment. The aim is to identify and produce active and powerful enzymes or other valuable compounds for use in the food processing, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

We use innovative sequence-based bioprospecting approaches to mine natural microbial communities for properties of interest. Important core competences of Matís are molecular genetics, molecular biotechnology and metabolic engineering, which are applied to increase production of the biocatalysts and bio-molecules. This work has resulted in the establishment of a large bacterial strain collection containing more than 4000 strains of great diversity.

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    Our employees have extensive experience in prospecting metagenomes derived from hot springs or marine environments for polysaccharides and carbohydrate enzymes. Over the years, our work in this field has established a collection of more than 200 recombinantly producible, stable carbohydrate enzymes.

    In recent years Matís has increased its focus on developing of biorefinery systems based on thermophilic bacteria. The objective has been to produce biofuels, valuable bioactive compounds or platform chemicals from lignocellulosic and macroalgal biomass. The work has involved development of genetic tools and biobricks with resultant synthetic biology studies.

    Extremophiles are organisms that thrive in extreme environmental conditions. These microorganisms colonise habitats where most other life forms cannot survive. The nature of such habitats generates microbes that are biologically unique compared to the majority of other microbes found in the world.

    Our sample collection has been accumulating since 1986, containing many extremophiles from geochemically extreme locations. Our current research into extremophiles inhabiting hot springs and utilizing geothermal energy aims to collect novel heat resistant enzymes for use in industry or research purposes