UW-Madison student discovers new yeast species in Green Bay, names it for Packers

    Max Haase points June 19, 2017, to the tree at Christa McAuliffe Park in Green Bay where he discovered a new species of yeast. (WLUK/Brittany Ford)

    GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- It may not be green and gold, but the name of a new species of yeast, Yamadazyma laniorum, is an homage to the Packers. "Lanorium" is a Latin word meaning "pertaining to butchers."

    "We found it here in Green Bay, made sense to name it, after the history of the Green Bay packing industry," said Max Haase, who discovered the new species of yeast.

    Hasse grew up in Green Bay, and just recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He came across the yeast while walking the trail at Christa McAuliffe Park in Green Bay.

    Haase says he found the yeast by pulling bark of a sugar maple tree. He hoped the yeast could be used in the biofuel industry.

    After taking the sample back to Madison to Professor Chris Hittinger's lab, a groundbreaking discovery was made.

    "Packers yeast solved a 30-year mystery, and revised the yeast family tree, in a way that clarifies which yeast can use this really important sugar for our sustainable bioenergy economy," said Hittinger, a professor of genetics.

    Haase says initial lab findings showed in fact, that the yeast could potentially be used to make biofuels.

    "That was the initial thought, was taking that sugar xylose, and converting it into ethanol to be used for gasoline kind of like a biofuel -- but that wasn't the case through testing if it did ferment."

    Although not biofuel-friendly, Hittinger says the finding has helped future research.

    "It's a big deal in that it will help other researchers focus the valuable resources that the taxpayers provide to support bioenergy research in a more productive way," he explained.

    As for Haase, he says, "to say I did something that's kind of out there in public knowledge, I can hold the paper, and say I did something that's productive."

    The "Packers yeast" is being preserved at Hittinger's lab at UW-Madison.


    WMTV-TV in Madison contributed to this story.

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