The one approach that does not involve genetic manipulation of the producer organism includes (1) deepening our biological knowledge of existing microalgal species and their metabolites; (2) discovery of new producers and potential products; (3) optimization of growth conditions; and (4) optimization of production processes. Advanced screening technologies involving 'metabolomic' databases, as well as ecological field surveys, to identify and even design novel compounds with various biological activities support the search for new strains and products. The optimization stages rely on basic biology being coupled to bioengineering and require intensive research.
Genetic engineering represents the other approach to microalgal biotechnology. The last two decades have brought significant advances in microalgal molecular biology. Cyanobacteria are fairly simple to genetically alter in comparison to eukaryotic algae. Although most progress has been achieved in a few model systems, we are still not capable of standardizing our molecular and metabolic manipulation of commercially relevant species. A much better understanding of the mechanisms that control the regulation of gene expression in microalgae is still required.
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