Algae/Fungi Endosymbiosis Platform for Lipid Biosynthesis


Executive Summary


Bioethanol and biodiesel are produced primarily from terrestrial plant material rich in sugar and starch such as corn, sugarcane, or sweet sorghum. However, producing fuels using food crops is not optimal in the long term since they require premium land, abundant water, and large inputs of energy in the form of agricultural machinery and fertilizer. To combat these issues, researchers and industry have turned to alternative sources for energy production including microbes such as algae and fungi. While promising, current methods of harvesting and dewatering algae consume too much energy and are not cost-effective. MSU researchers have developed a technology that combines two important oil-producing algae and fungi into a hybrid structure allowing for not only easier harvesting from water with a simple filter, but also improved vigor and stress resistance.


Description of Technology


This MSU technology represents a process for obtaining living fungal mycelia that have uniquely incorporated photosynthetically active marine algae within their hyphae. The algal endosymbiosis is robust as each organism can supply the other with nutrients, thus allowing greater survivability during nutrient deprivation or abiotic stresses.  The method is both simple and efficient for making, growing, and maintaining the culture.  Additionally, incorporation into fungal filaments allows for easier harvesting and dewatering of the oil-rich algae, which addresses major issues with production costs.  The fungal / algal consortia are useful for making a variety of compounds and materials, including oils, biofuels, and biomass.


Key Benefits

  • Easy, low-cost dewatering
  • Low maintenance costs of fungal/algal consortia
  • Improved vigor as symbionts
  • Does not require farmland or fresh water like crop-based biofuels



  • Process for incorporating photosynthetically active algal cells within fungal hyphae
  • Synthetic consortium of two oil-producing organisms for use in manufacture of oil, biofuel, and biomass


Patent Status: 


Patent pending


Licensing Rights Available


Full licensing rights available


Inventors: Dr. Gregory Bonito, Dr. Christoph Benning, Zhi-Yan Du


Tech ID: TEC2017-0071



Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University