With the advent of modern biotechnology, microorganisms from diverse lineages have been used to produce bio-based feedstocks and bioactive compounds. Many of these compounds are currently commodities of interest, in a variety of markets and their utility warrants investigation into improving their production through strain development. In this review, we address the issue of strain improvement in a group of organisms with strong potential to be productive “cell factories”: the photosynthetic microalgae. Microalgae are a diverse group of phytoplankton, involving polyphyletic lineage such as green algae and diatoms that are commonly used in the industry. The photosynthetic microalgae have been under intense investigation recently for their ability to produce commercial compounds using only light, CO2
, and basic nutrients. However, their strain improvement is still a relatively recent area of work that is under development. Importantly, it is only through appropriate engineering methods that we may see the full biotechnological potential of microalgae come to fruition. Thus, in this review, we address past and present endeavors towards the aim of creating productive algal cell factories and describe possible advantageous future directions for the field.
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