Knowledge for a sustainable world

PhD, BEng

Dr Yanan Xu did her PhD on Biochemical Engineering at UCL and joined University of Greenwich in 2014 as a postdoctoral research fellow. Her research is on production of high value compounds from microalgae. She has experience in screening and genetic modification of algal strains for high value natural products, lab scale and pilot scale cultivation and harvesting of microalgae.

Dr Yanan Xu has worked on different EU funded projects including Ecotec 21, D-Factory and Valgorize. She has recently discovered that the accumulation of a valuable carotenoid isomer 9-cis β-carotene in the marine microalga Dunaliella salina is enhanced by red light and a group of cell division inhibitors that inhibit microtubular organisations lead to massive accumulation of the colourless carotenoid phytoene in Dunaliella salina (WO2019097219-Production of Dunaliella). Now she is working on understanding the biological mechanism behind them as well as transferring the laboratory techniques to commercial scale production.

Dr Yanan Xu’s research focuses on high value compounds from microalgae, in particular, natural carotenoids production using marine microalga Dunaliella salina as a platform. She is particularly interested in the functions and metabolisms of carotenoid isomers in D. salina, and have also looked at different downstream processing methods to harvest, extract and purify different carotenoids from D. salina biomass for the purpose of food, feed and clinical trials.

The novel approaches for the production of high 9-cis β-carotene or high phytoene algal biomass has attracted great interest from both research and industrial organisations for their potential health benefits and commercial values. The carotene isomer, 9-cis β-carotene, and the colourless carotenoid phytoene have important roles as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. 9-cis β-carotene is also implicated to have potential to protect against retinal dystrophies, chronic plaque psoriasis and atherosclerosis. Industrial scale production of these valuable natural carotenoid stereoisomers is not available yet. The novel approaches developed by Dr Yanan Xu will facilitate the commercialisation of these valuable carotenoid products.

Currently Dr Yanan Xu is supervising a PhD student Laura Mazzucchi, who receives a VC Scholarship, on the production of colourless phytoene from D. salina with the aid of novel, low toxic approaches, which also involves method development to identify and separate different carotenoid  stereoisomers and large scale production and purification of phytoene isomers, which are not yet available at large quantities on the market.

Send an Email