Simo Ellilä is a molecular biologist working as a Research Scientist in the Bioprocess engineering team at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, where he joined in 2011. He has been involved in several EU and industry projects aiming at converting lignocellulosic biomass into ethanol or organic acids. His work has focused mainly on the discovery, production and characterization of hydrolytic enzymes, biomass hydrolysis and bioprocess development. He spent more than three years (2013-2016) in Brazil working in the FINEP-funded PAISS program, where he was engaged in developing low-cost cellulase production processes for the local sugarcane industry.
Engineering Trichoderma reesei for on-site cellulase production
Cellulase enzymes can represent up to 40% of the operational costs of a cellulosic biorefinery. Currently, these enzymes are primarily delivered to biorefineries in large volumes by specialty enzyme manufacturers. The operational cost of cellulases could be decreased by producing the enzymes on-site at the biorefinery using low-cost local residues and simplified processes. The mesophilic ascomycete fungus Trichoderma reesei is the most studied organism for the production of cellulolytic enzymes. However, the use of standard T. reesei strains for on-site enzyme production faces some notable technical hurdles. VTT has been engineering T. reesei for more than three decades, and has elucidated many of the key genes and enzymes involved hydrolytic enzyme production. In this talk I will summarize some of our recent efforts to engineer this fungus to enable economically viable on-site cellulase production processes.