History, Structure, and Purposes of UTEX

The Culture Collection of Algae at the University of Texas at Austin, herein designated as “UTEX”, has been in continuous operation since 1953.  It was established by Richard C. Starr at Indiana University and was moved to its present site in 1976. Dr. Starr was the Director of UTEX from its inception until his untimely death in February of 1998, at which time Jerry J. Brand became the Director.

Dr. Jerry Brand


The principal resource of UTEX is its extensive collection of living algae. Nearly 2,800 different strains of algae, representing approximately 200 different genera, are provided to the public at modest charge. The Collection maintains an especially strong representation of freshwater and edaphic green algae and cyanobacteria, but includes representatives of most major algal taxa, including many marine macrophytic green and red algae. All strains in the Collection were obtained as isolates from natural sources, and no genetically altered strains are maintained. Approximately half of UTEX strains are axenic and all cultures are unialgal.

The Culture Collection of Algae is administrated as an Organized Research Unit of the University of Texas in Austin through the College of Natural Sciences. Its principal administrative officer is a Director who is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies regarding the management of UTEX.  The resources of UTEX are managed through a Curator. The primary duties of UTEX staff are transferring cultures to fresh media on regular schedules, shipping cultures to users, keeping records related to sales and inventory, preparing media, and managing glassware.

The principal function of UTEX is the maintenance of its diverse stock of living algae, in order to make these algal strains available to a user community worldwide at modest cost. Cultures in the Collection are used especially for research, but also for biotechnology development, teaching, water quality assessment, food for aquatic animals, and a variety of other purposes. UTEX does not impose restrictions regarding the use of cultures that are purchased and does not assume any responsibility for cultures that are sold and sent away from the facility.

UTEX is a nonprofit organization. Principal financial support is obtained through the National Science Foundation of the U.S.A. Additional support comes from the College of Natural Sciences of The University of Texas at Austin and through the sale of cultures to the user community.

Dr. David Nobles

Dr. David R. Nobles, Jr. earned a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. He studied under Dr. R. Malcolm Brown, Jr., a noted phycologist, microscopist, cell biologist, and leading cellulose researcher. During his time in the R. Malcolm Brown, Jr. Laboratory, Dr. Nobles became familiar with diverse algae via the study of cell wall biosynthesis. His doctoral research focused on the cell biology, molecular biology, and biotechnological aspects of cellulose biosynthesis by cyanobacteria. He received the Outstanding Dissertation Award for his dissertation entitled “Cellulose in the Cyanobacteria”. His postdoctoral research focused on the development of cyanobacteria as sources for biofuel feedstocks. To date, he has developed methods for the cyanobacterial production of cellulose, glucose, and sucrose. Dr. Nobles is a co-author of multiple patents based on this research and is a founding member of Phykotek, Inc., a startup company dedicated to the production of cyanobacterial feedstocks. His current research interests include expanding the number of sequenced algal genomes; the development of novel algal systems for genetic and metabolic engineering; utilizing the amazing diversity of algae for biotechnological applications including the production of pharmaceuticals, biomass, and biofuels; and the use of algae for CO2 mitigation.

Selected Publications

Nobles, DR Jr. and Brown, RM Jr. (2008) Transgenic expression of Gluconacetobacter xylinus strain ATCC 53582 cellulose synthase genes in the cyanobacterium Synechococcus leopoliensis strain UTCC 100. Cellulose 15(5): 691-701.

Nobles, DR Jr. and Brown, RM Jr. (2007) Many Paths up the Mountain: Tracking the Evolution of Cellulose Biosynthesis, in Brown, RM Jr. and Saxena IM eds., Cellulose: Molecular and Structural Biology. Springer, The Netherlands, pp. 1-15.

Nobles, DR Jr., Romanovicz, DK, Brown, RM Jr. (2001) Cellulose in the Cyanobacteria. Origin of Vascular Plant Cellulose Synthase? Plant Physiology, 127(2): 529-542.


Title Patent Number Year Filed Inventors
Expression of Foreign Cellulose Synthase Genes in Photosynthetic Prokaryotes (Cyanobacteria) 20080113413 2007 R. Malcolm Brown, Jr.
David R. Nobles, Jr.
Transgenic cyanobacteria: A novel direct secretion of glucose for the production of biofuels 20080085520 2007 R. Malcolm Brown, Jr.
David R. Nobles, Jr.
Controlled, direct secretion of sucrose by cyanobacteria for the production of biofuels and plastics 20080124767 2007 R. Malcolm Brown, Jr.
David R. Nobles, Jr.
A cellulose producing marine cyanobacterium for ethanol production 20080085536 2007 R. Malcolm Brown, Jr.
David R. Nobles, Jr.

UTEX Staff (February 2010)

UTEX Staff (From top left): Jennifer Horn, Jingjie Yu, Rebecca Knight, Dr. David Nobles, Caribbean Wawrzyniak, Dr. Jerry Brand, Peter Petrzala, Rebekah Powell, Cathy Leba, Lina Rahman, Tracy Nguyen, Bonnie O’Neil, Ana Aguilar, Domini Maddox, Tinisha Hancock, Pei-Yun Tseng, Onanong Sasiponganan, Molly O’Neil, Meagan Murdock, Stephen Peña
Not pictured: Yi Tat Tong, Kimberly Ha

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