Ólafur H. Friðjónsson

Research Group Leader

Biotechnology is the processing of biomaterials from biomass, cells or cellular components. These include proteins, sugars, fats and other organic molecules, bioactive and pharmacologically active substances. Biotechnology is therefore a methodology that can be applied, for example, to food processing in agriculture and fisheries.

Matís´s biotechnology group promotes innovation through the development of biotechnology in Iceland and helps biotechnology companies to gain a foothold in the Icelandic economy. The group works on various research and development projects related to biotechnology as well as serving the biotechnology industry in Iceland. The tasks of the biotechnology group include the utilization of underutilized resources and by-products to increase value creation and reduce undesirable environmental effects. Matís´s biotechnology group has for years conducted practical researches on Iceland´s genetic resources and has been at the forefront of such researches. The focus has been on finding and market new enzymes from heat- and cold seeking microorganisms.

The biotechnology group provides various service for example in the development of processes and products, activity measurements and sampling. Furthermore, the group provides service related to genetic engineering, cf. cloning and expression of genes, and sequencing of genomes (genomics, transcriptomics, metagenomics).

Matís's biotechnology group has knowledge in systems biology and metabolic engineering. The aim of such research is to develop cell factories that produce valuable materials of all kinds, cf. biofuels, organic acids and pigments.

In recent years Matís´s biotechnology group has been focusing on marine biotechnology which includes research and development of processing of Icelandic seafood. Matís has acquired extensive expertise in the utilization of large algae and small algae. Large algae (seaweed and kelp) are full of valuable substances, such as complex sugars. Matís has developed enzymes and cell factories that convert seaweed sugars into various substances, from biofuels to substances used in the pharmaceutical industry and in the production of bioplastics. There has been a lot of interest in cultivation of small algae here in Iceland and Matís has for years researched and cultivated algae from the Icelandic environment. Matís assists companies in the field of small algae cultivation in developing and processing products for food and feed.