11 December 2020 – “A large part of my network is from abroad,” Cubillos says. After a PhD at the University of Nottingham, UK, where he investigated the genetic architecture of complex traits in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Cubillos moved to the INRA-Versailles Research Centre in Paris, France, to understand how non-coding regions of the genome allowed plants to adapt to extreme environments.
Now, as an Associate Researcher at the University of Santiago de Chile, Cubillos uses ‘omics’ approaches to understand the variability in genetic and physiological traits of Saccharomyces eubayanus, the ‘parent’ of the lager brewing yeast. Cubillos’ team is isolating and characterizing Saccharomyces eubayanus strains for biotechnological applications. “We look for strains with the best potential, we improve their performance, for example for beer production, and then we work with local beer producers to get new beers out,” he says. In the next years, his team will collect a large number of yeast strains from Patagonia to study their biotechnological potential, but also to try to understand the microbial diversity present in the South American region, which is likely a microbial “refuge” with an astounding amount of genetic variability, Cubillos says.
As an EMBO Global Investigator, Cubillos hopes that the financial support for collaboration and training activities will help him to consolidate his international research network, but also help his students grow as scientists. The programme, he says, “is going to provide them with tools for the future.”