May Biorenewables Café

by Valdeir Arantes ~ May 23rd, 2013. Filed under: Upcoming Café.

Dear friends of the Biorenewables Cafe,

We are excited to invite you to our next Biorenewables Cafe on May 27. This month’s talk will feature Dr. Alex Skyba, a post-doctoral fellow from the University of British Columbia. He will share with us his research on fungal degradation of woody biomass. This is an important step in the conversion of plant biomass into renewable energy and chemicals. We will have our talk at the Railway Club, next Monday, May 27 at 6:30 pm.



The degradation/ modification of lignocellulosic biomass for the production of renewable products such as biofuels typically requires the use of enzymes. Despite advances in molecular biology and protein engineering, our understanding of basic mechanisms involved in enzymatic degradation of biomass is still lacking. As a result, an important aspect of much of the research to-date has been to understand the limiting factors involved in the decreased hydrolysis rate as time progresses. These factors have been traditionally divided into two groups: those related to the biomass structures and those related to the mechanisms and interactions of the enzyme arsenal of the various wood degrading fungi. We have combined these approaches by using the recently available genome sequences of white- and brown-rot fungi that degrade major components of plant cell walls including cellulose, hemicellulose and recalcitrant lignin.

We also use poplar biomass with different properties to obtain expression profiles of wood degrading fungi and identifying a set of candidate genes necessary for lignocellulose conversion within different plant properties. These results will help guide our efforts to improve biomass conversion efficiency, the identifications of novel enzymes and targets for genetic improvement of key forestry feedstock.


Alex Skyba has received BSc in Chemical Technology and Engineering from Kiev Polytechnic Institute in Ukraine. During his traineeship in Martin-Luther University in Germany he has worked on the enzyme purification and immobilization techniques. Later he has got MSc degree in Industrial Biotechnology for his work on immobilization of phospholipase D on synthetic organic polymers.

After graduation he has worked in the Wood Protection department of the Swiss Research Laboratories (EMPA) in St.Gallen investigating wood modification with decay fungi in order to improve the treatability of wood preservatives.

PhD at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich on durability and physical properties of thermo-hydro-mechanically densified wood.

In 2009 he has joined Wood Molecular Biology Lab at UBC as a post-doctoral fellow. His current interests are in wood cell wall chemistry, fungal enzymes/co-factors discovery and interactions between wood decay fungi and woody substrates.

See you there!

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