Tiny algae have huge potential for Saudi Arabia’s bioeconomy

21 April, 2023

An opportunity to build his own lab and the potential for his work to create a real impact in Saudi Arabia were two big motivators for Kyle Lauersen when he decided to accept a position at KAUST.

Almost four years later, Lauersen, an expert in algal synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, leads one of the only dedicated algal biotechnology labs in the Arabian Peninsula. His team isolates, identifies and characterizes algal species adapted to Saudi Arabia’s extreme temperatures and cultivates these local strains in 22 purpose-built bioreactors.

“We have probably the largest suite of bioreactors for growing algae of any academic institution in the world,” says Lauersen. “Every new strain is put in six reactors to grow under different conditions — continuous light, day-night cycling and then one reactor each to simulate winter, spring, summer and autumn in Saudi.”

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