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Even the smallest microbes work in cooperation. Researchers like Daniel Machado are recognizing the importance of microbes in the environment and combining the best of each for eco-friendly final products. He uses his computational biology skills to model possible microbial combinations for industrial and medical use.

Listen and learn

  • How the fermentation industry, traditionally using single organism models, is recognizing the importance of microbial diversity,
  • How the role of microbes in ecosystems models the benefits of job sharing in heterogeneous cultures, and
  • What the implications of this research means for better biofuels, medicines, and ecofriendly processes.

Daniel Machado is an associate professor of Computational Biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Unlike most computational biologists, his interest started with computers and grew to include biology. He likes to think of the “cell as a complex computer and the DNA or the genome as a piece of software.” While his PhD work focused on single organisms like yeast, his current work looks at microbial ecology and diversity. His research more specifically looks at ways to optimize traits of these microorganisms.

For example, he and his colleagues have found that a “synthetic consortium” of bacteria can run a fermentation process more efficiently than the traditional single organism. The consortium provides a beneficial division of labor with different bacteria doing different jobs. Furthermore, biologists can engineer the consortiums to get the best of each metabolic process, or use the best of the “competitive and comparative” strains. Often more efficient processes result with mixed species rather than a single species.

He is studying a better use of substrates as well, such as a more sustainable substrate like lignocellulosic waste rather than sugar. Finally, he describes new research along these lines with plants and how this work will produce better biofuels, industrial products, and medicines. Listen in for more spectacular uses of microbial diversity.

Episode also available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/30PvU9C

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