Solar Biotechnologies for Tomorrow’s Pharma

 Seagriculture EU 2024
Solar Biotechnologies

The University of Queensland’s Hankamer Lab is harnessing the ability of green algae to absorb solar energy and carbon dioxide in order to address health and environmental challenges.

In the next 30 years the world will need to produce 70% more food than in 2005, 50% more fresh water and fuel, while reducing CO₂ emissions by 100% — opening up a huge opportunity to expand large scale solar biotechnologies onto areas of land and ocean that would otherwise be non-productive.

Professor Ben Hankamer and his team at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience are harnessing the natural ability of green algae to absorb solar energy and carbon dioxide to produce molecules that may hold the key to curing some of the globe’s health and environmental challenges.

“Despite their small size, microalgae have shown they can have a big impact,” Professor Hankamer said. “We’ve engineered strains of the algae to produce molecules that deliver new diagnostics and treatments for conditions like stroke and epilepsy, inflammation, and bacterial infections — using the power of the sun, while reducing industrial carbon emissions.”

Why make medicines in algae?

Single-celled green algae have many advantages for medical research and applications, he notes. “They can be produced in low-cost bioreactors at mass scale to make the medicines of the future more affordable and accessible to more patients. Algal bioreactors are easier to keep free of contaminants, making the end products safer and cheaper.”

Algae can also help to assemble complex medicines and diagnostics such as monoclonal antibodies, for example for COVID testing, that have proved difficult and expensive to manufacture in traditional pharmaceutical systems.

Human health is also intricately linked with environmental health. Professor Hankamer warns that there is no time to waste in addressing the climate crisis. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported we are now faced with a code red for humanity. Now, more than ever is the time to ensure the world uses knowledge to make robust decisions for human and planetary health,” he says.

All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint articles in their entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact Algae Planet accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

Seagriculture USA 2024



  • May 17, 2024: BettaF!sh, a leading alt seafood and seaweed start-up in Europe, has announced its involvement in the FunSea project, a collaborative EU-wide research initiative designed to advance the nutritional quality and safety of cultivated brown and green seaweed. This research project intends to develop novel, sustainable food products over a three-year period, by employing cutting-edge processing technologies and utilizing residual biomass from biomarine industries. READ MORE...
  • May 15, 2024: The 2024 Algae Biomass Summit, to be held in Houston, Texas, October 20-22, 2024, is now accepting speaker and poster abstracts for the world’s largest algae conference. Abstracts should be submitted by May 24th to receive preferential scoring by the review committee, as well as student registration discounts. READ MORE...
  • May 13, 2024: The Tasmanian Government is investing $4 million in the agricultural sector with the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock by more than 16,000 tons. “The TasFarmers proposal will use Sea Forest’s Asparagopsis SeaFeed as a feed additive to some 24,000 head of livestock in this large-scale trial to demonstrate commercial-scale viability of Asparagopsis feed supplements,” said Minister for Parks and Environment, Nick Duigan. READ MORE...
  • May 10, 2024: Dallas-based public charity the Cares Organization has received a substantial donation from the National Christian Foundation and ZimWorx to kickstart their newest sponsored project, the Eat To Grow Development and Upliftment Program, which aims to address food insecurity and poverty in Zimbabwe by establishing a microalgae spirulina farm which will feed 500 people per day in a sustainable way. READ MORE...

Algae Europe 2024

A Beginner’s Guide