University of Coimbra (UC)

The University of Coimbra was founded in 1290 and constitutes a reference in higher education and scientific research in Portugal, due to the quality of the courses taught and to the advances achieved in pure and applied research in various fields of science. It includes 8 faculties and 32 research centres, providing teaching and conducting research in almost all study fields - Exact Sciences and Engineering, Life Sciences, Architecture, Medicine, Social Sciences, Humanities and Sports - , as well as several structures devoted to promote science and technology, culture and sports. University of Coimbra also stands out on technology transfer, being involved in the promotion of several initiatives, like the IPN Incubator and the Biotechnology Innovation Centre BIOCANT (first of its kind in Portugal), as well as in the creation of several technological spin-offs.

Within the University of Coimbra, the project will be developed at the Algoteca of Coimbra (ACOI), a research unit at the Department of Life Sciences. ACOI holds the largest collection of freshwater microalgae and cyanobacteria in the world, housing more than 4,000 strains in culture.

Routine tasks at ACOI include collecting microalgae from the field, preparation of culture media, isolation of strains, sub-culturing for maintenance of the cultures, and re-isolation when contamination does occur. Identification of species has been based on traditional taxonomy. At present, research on particular algal groups also includes identification based on molecular biology techniques. Current research is focused on selection and cultivation of strains with potential biotechnological interest, namely oily and mucilaginous microalgae, but also producers of other valuable compounds such as protein and pigments. Extraction of lipids and polysaccharides from selected strains is being done, followed by analysis and quantification of fatty-acids and sugars. In addition, analyses are done for total biomass nutritional value of the strains, including antioxidant properties.