French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands
Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research
BGU, Sede-Boqer Campus, 84990, Israel
Tel:  972-8-6596799, 6596796

Fax. 972-8-6596802


 Born: 1947, Germany.

Personal WebPage

Academic Status:

Professor Emeritus

Research Interests:

The main objective of my work relates to the physiology of microalgae as related to mass culturing outdoors. In a nutshell the work so far points out that our original approach taken some 35 years ago of treating algal growth outdoors in terms of light limitation or a process governed by one main limiting factor was a naive attempt to simplify things. Our findings point out that in many cases the system is down regulated or even photoinhibited not necessarily because of exposure to high light intensity but rather due to other environmental stress that reduce the photosynthetic activity be it temperature or salinity. As a result the ability of the cells to utilize light by the photosynthetic machinery is reduced and thus light levels that are considered as harmless under optimal growth conditions are turning to be over-saturating levels and result in down regulating and photoinhibiting the photosynthetic apparatus. Based on this working hypothesis we are also reviewing some of our old data related to the role of light and temperature in outdoor cultures and getting a better understanding that algal cultures are shifted during the day from light limitation to light inhibition in a relatively very fast cycle. The major organism studied was Spirulina or under it scientific name Arthrospira platensis. A large collection of strains collected during the years from all over the world is used in our studies. In recent years a significant part of the work is dedicated to selection of species (Nannochloropsis) either from different habitats or after induced random mutations with the attempt to isolate strains of higher adaptability capacity to biotic stress.

Present Academic Activities:

The main activities in my group along the above mentioned line are:

-   Acclimation of the photosynthetic apparatus of two Spirulina strains to salinity stress and low temperature: (photoinhibition and antioxidants).

-   The role of environmental factors ( high salt and high light ) on growth and fatty-acid biosynthesis in Monodus subterraneus

- Isolation of mutants of the marine microalgae Nannochloropsis. oceamica resitent to 'oxidative stress" and the modification induced in their growth and photosynthetic capacity.

Other research activities:

(In collaboration with other members of the Algal Biotechnology group):

-   Developing the biotechnology for production of Haematococcus as a source for astaxanthin.

-   Microalgae as a source for high value fatty acids (EPA &AA).

-   Developing a photobioreactor for cultivation of Spirulina strains with high B12 content.

- Consulting large scale producers of Spirulina in improving productivity and scaling up of operation.


1974-1980         Ph.D. Ben-Gurion University, Department of Biology.

                       Advisor: Prof. A. Richmond

                       Thesis: The response of A. nidulans  to environmental  limitations.

1972-1974         M.Sc. Ben-Gurion University  and Hebrew University, Department of Biology.

                       Advisor: Prof. A. Richmond

                       Thesis: The effect of light, dark and kinetin on the protein synthesis activity of isolated chloroplasts.

1968-1971         B.Sc. Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Biology.

Awards, Citations, Honors, Fellowships:

Honors, Citation Awards:

     Chaim Sheaba Price for Achievements in Desert Development, 1986.

     National Academy Fund for Scientific Cooperation with the National Univ. of Singapore, 1987


The Ben-Gurion Fund for Research: The General Federation of Labor in Israel, 1973.

FEBS - Youth Travel Fellowship, 1976.

AVIAF (Europe) – Rothschild Foundation, 1980.

AVIAF (Europe) – Rothschild Foundation, 1981.

Third World Microbiology Fund – SGM, 1986.

National Academy Fund for Scientific Cooperation with the National Univ. of Singapore, 1987.

RAISA Research Fellowship for Scientific Cooperation with CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche) in Italy, 1992.

Underwood Fund - Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK, 1995.

International Research Cooperation, Osaka National Research Institute, Japan, 1996

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Invitation Fellowship Program for Research in Japan (Tsukuba Univ.), 1999. 

Professional functions outside universities/institutes 

2018-      Representing Israel as MC in the EU COST action 1408 titled EUAlgae

2016-      Member in the board of directors of BaseCamp an innovation center and accelerator for high-tech initiatives.

2014-      Academic advisor to the Ramat-Negev International Training Center for Advanced Agriculture.

2013-      Member in the public advisory board of “ Mifal Hapa'is" The Israeli national lottery. Member in the Ad-Hoc committee for setting up the criteria's for fund distribution to the Israeli municipalities.

2006 -     Associate Editor J. of Applied Phycology

Scientific Publications:

Authored Books:

Vonshak, A. (Ed.) Spirulina platensis (Arthrospira): Physiology, Cell-biology and Biotechnology. Taylor & Francis, London UK, 1997, 233 pp.

Chapters in Books:

Vonshak, A. and Maske, H. Algae: growth techniques and biomass production. In Techniques in Bioproductivity and Photosynthesis.  J. Coombs and D. Hall (Eds.). Pergamon Press, London, 1980.

Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. Problems in developing the biotechnology of algal biomass production. In Biosaline research - a look into the future. Pasternak, D. and A. San-Pietro Martinus Nijhoff (Eds.). Dr. Junk Pub., The Netherlands, 1985.

Vonshak, A. Microalgae: laboratory techniques and outdoor biomass production. In Techniques in Bioproductivity and Photosynthesis, 2nd Edition, J. Coombs and D. Hall (Eds.). Pergamon Press, London, 1985. (This volume has been translated to Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Russian).

Coombs, C., Hind,G., Leedoog, R.C., Tieszen, L.L. and Vonshak, A. Analytical Techniques. In Techniques in Bioproductivity and Photosynthesis. Reprinted and Corrected Edition, J. Coombs, D. Hall , S.P. Long and J.M.O. Scurlock (Eds.). Pergamon Press, London, 1987.

Vonshak, A. Laboratory techniques for the culturing of microalgae. In Handbook for Algal Mass Culture. Richmond, A. (Ed.). CRC Press, Boca Raton Florida, 1986.

Vonshak, A. Porphyridium. In Micro-algal Biotechnology. Borowitzka, M. and J. Borowitzka, (Eds.). Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Vonshak, A. and Guy, R. Photoinhibition in outdoor cultures of the cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis. In: Techniques and New Developments in Photosynthesis Research. Barber, J. and R. Malkin, (Eds.). Plenum Press, NY & London, 1988.

Cohen, Z., Vonshak, A., Boussiba, S. and A. Richmond.  The effect of temperature and cell concentration on fatty acid composition of outdoor cultures of Porphyridium cruentum. In Algal Biotechnology, T. Stadler et al., (Eds), Alsevier Applied Science Publishers, London England, 1988, PP. 421-30.

Vonshak, A. and Guy, R. Photoinhibition as a limiting factor in outdoor cultivation of Spirulina platensis. In Algal Biotechnology, T. Stadler et al., (Eds), Elsevier Applied Science Publishers, London England, 1988, PP. 365-70.

Vonshak, A. Microalgae: laboratory growth techniques and the biotechnology of biomass production. In: Photosynthesis and Production in a Changing Environment: A Field and Laboratory Manual. Hall, Scurlock, Bolhar, Leegood and Long (Eds.). Chapman and Hall Ltd Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers, London, 1991.

Boussiba, S., Lu, F. and Vonshak, A. Methods for enhancement and determination of astaxanthin accumulation in the green alga Haematococcus pluvialis. In Methods in Enzymology, Vol. 213, Packer, L. (ed.), Academic Press, 1992, pp. 386-391.

Vonshak, A. Microalgal biotechnology: is it an economical success? In: Biotechnology: Economic and Social Aspects. DaSilva, E.J., Ratledge, C. and Sasson, A. (Eds.) Cambridge University Press, U.K., 1992.

   Chapters written in Vonshak, A. (Ed.) Spirulina platensis (Arthrospira): Physiology, Cell-biology and Biotechnology. Taylor & Francis, London UK, 1997:

                 Vonshak, A. Spirulina: Growth, Physiology and Biochemistry. pp. 43-65

                 Vachhani, A.K. and Vonshak, A. Genetics of Spirulina. pp. 67-77

                 Vonshak, A. Outdoor Mass Production of Spirulina: The Basic Concept. pp. 79-99

                 Vonshak, A. Use of Spirulina Biomass. pp. 205-211

                 Vonshak, A. Appendices. pp. 213-226


Vonshak, A. and Tomaselli, L. Arthrospira (Spirulina): Systematics and Ecophysiology. In: The Ecology of Cyanobacteria. Whitton, B.A. and Potts, M. (Eds.). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Netherlands, 2000, pp. 505-522.

Torzillo, G. and Vonshak, A. Biotechnology for Algal Mass Cultivation. In: Recent Advances in Marine Biotechnology, Vol. 9. Biomaterials an Bioprocessing. Fingerman, M. and Nagabhushanam, R. (Eds.). Science Publishers, Inc. 2003, 45-77.

Vonshak, A. and Torzillo, G.  Environmental stress physiology. In Microalgal Culture: Biotechnology and Applied Phycology. Richmond, A. (Ed.). Blackwell Science, 2004, pp. 57-82.

Refereed articles in scientific journals:

1. Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. Initial stages in the onset of senescence in tobacco leaves. Plant Physiol., 55: 786-790, 1975.

2. Richmond, A. and Vonshak, A. Spirulina culture in Israel. Arch. fur Hydrobiol., 11: 274-280, 1978.

3. Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. Genome multiplication as related to the growth rate in blue-green algae Anacystis nidulans. Plant and Cell Physiology, 22(8): 442-449, 1981.

4. Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. Photosynthetic and respiratory activity in Anacystis nidulans  adapted to osmotic stress. Plant Physiol., 68: 504-506, 1981.

5. Vonshak, A., Abeliovich, A., Boussiba, S., Arad, S. and Richmond, A. Production of Spirulina biomass: effects of environmental factors and population density. Biomass, 2: 175-185, 1982.

6. Vonshak, A., Boussiba, S., Abeliovich, A. and Richmond, A. Production of Spirulina biomass: maintenance of pure culture outdoors. Biotechnol. Bioeng., 25: 341-349, 1983.

7. Duyvesteyn, M.G.C., Korsuize, J., de-Waard, A., Vonshak, A. and Wolk, C.P. Sequence - specific endonucleases in strains of Anabaena  and Nostoc. Arch. of Microbiol., 134(4): 276-281, 1983.

8. Wolk, C.P., Vonshak, A., Kebce, P. and Elhai, J. Construction of shuttle vectors capable of conjugative transfer from Escherichia coli  to nitrogen-fixing filamentous cyanobacteria. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 80: 1,561-65, 1984.

9. Vonshak, A., Cohen, Z. and Richmond, A. The feasibility of mass cultivation of Porphyridium. Biomass, 8: 13-25, 1985.

10. Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. Problems in developing the biotechnology of algal biomass production. Plant and Soil, 89: 129-135, 1985.

11. Ben-Yaakov, S., Guterman, H., Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. An automatic method for on-line estimation of the photosynthetic rate in open algal ponds. Biotech. and Bioeng., 27(8): 1136-1145, 1985.

12. Richmond, A. and Vonshak, A. Management of Spirulina mass culture. Beihefte zur Nova Hedwigia, 83: 222-223, 1986.

13. Vonshak, A., Cohen, Z. and Richmond, A. The potential use of Porphyridium biomass for valuable natural products. Beihefte zur Nova Hedwigia, 83: 136-138, 1986.

15. Boussiba, S., Vonshak, A., Cohen, Z., Avissar, Y. and Richmond, A. Lipid and biomass production by the halotolerant microalga Nannochloropsis salina. Biomass, 12:37-48, 1987.

16. Cohen, Z., Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. Fatty acid composition of Spirulina strains under various environmental conditions.  Phytochemistry, 26: 2255-58, 1987.

17. Vonshak, A. Strain selection of Spirulina suitable for mass production. Hydrobiologia, 151/152: 79-82, 1987.

18. Vonshak, A. Biological limitations in developing the biotechnology for algal mass cultivation. Science de L'eau. (J. of Water Sci.)  6: 99-103, 1987.

19. Boussiba, S., Sandbank, E., Shelef, G., Cohen, Z., Vonshak, A., Ben-Amotz, A., Arad, S. and Richmond, A. Outdoor cultivation of the marine microalga Isochrysis galbana in open raceways. Aquaculture, 72: 247-53, 1988.

20. Cohen, Z., Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A.  The effect of environmental conditions on fatty acid composition of the red alga Porphyridium cruentum: correlation to growth rate. Journal of Phycology, 24(3): 328-332, 1988.

21. Sivak, M.N. and Vonshak, A. Photosynthetic characterization of Spirulina platensis on solid support  1. chlorophyll fluorescence, New Phytol., 110: 241-47, 1988.

22. Vonshak, A., Guy, R., Poplawsky, R. and I. Ohad. Photoinhibition and its recovery in two different strains of Spirulina. Plant and Cell Physiology, 29(4): 721-726, 1988.

23. Vonshak, A. and Richmond, A. Mass production of Spirulina - an overview, Biomass, 15(4): 233-48, 1988.

24. Vonshak, A., Guy, R. and Guy, M. The response of the filamentous cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis  to salt stress. Arch. Microbiol., 150: 417-20, 1988.

25. Lee, Y. K. and A. Vonshak. The kinetics of photoinhibition and its recovery in the red alga Porphyridium cruentum, Arch. Microbiol., 150(6): 529-33, 1988.

26. Guterman, H., Vonshak, A. and Ben-Yaakov, S. Automatic on-line growth estimation method for outdoor algal biomass production. Biotechnol. Bioeng., 132: 143-152, 1989.

27. Vonshak, A., Sivak, M. and Walker, D. Use of a solid support in the study of photosynthetic activity of Spirulina platensis. J. of Applied Phycology, 1: 131-135, 1989.

28. Guterman, H., Vonshak, A. and Ben-Yaakov, S.  A macro model for outdoor algal mass production.  Biotechnol. & Bioengin.,  35: 809-819, 1990.

29. Vonshak, A., Recent advances in microalgal biotechnology. Biotechnology Advances, 8: 709-727, 1990.

30. Cohen, Z. and A. Vonshak.  Fatty acid composition of Spirulina and Spirulina-like cyanobacteria as a tool in chemotaxonomy.  Phytochemistry, 30(1): 205-206, 1990.

31. Richmond, A., E. Lichtenberg, B. Stahl and Vonshak, A. Quantitative assessment of the major limitations on productivity of Spirulina platensis  in open raceways. J. Applied Phycology , 2: 195-206, 1990.

32. Boussiba, S. and Vonshak, A. Astaxanthin accumulation in the green alga Haematococcus pluvialis  Plant and Cell Physiology 32(7): 1077-1082, 1991.

33. Vonshak, A. and Guy, R. Photoadaptation, photoinhibition and productivity in outdoor grown Spirulina platensis strains. Plant Cell and Environment  15: 613-616, 1992.

34. Cunningham, F., Vonshak, A. and Gantt, E. Photoacclimation in the red alga Porphyridium cruentum: Changes in photosynthetic enzymes, electron carriers, and light-saturated rate of photosynthesis as a function of irradiance and spectral quality. Plant  Physiol. 100: 1142-1149, 1992.

35. Richmond, A., Boussiba, S., Vonshak, A. and Kopel, R. A new tubular reactor for mass production of microalgae outdoors. J. Appl. Phycol. 5: 327-332, 1993.

36. Tanticharoen, M., Bunnag, B. and Vonshak, A. Cultivation of Spirulina using secondary treated starch wastewater. Australian Biotechnology, 3: 223-226, 1993.

37. Vonshak, A. , Torzillo, G. and Tomaseli, L. Use of chlorophyll fluorescence to estimate the effect of photoinhibition in outdoor cultures of Spirulina platensis. J. Appl. Phycol. 6:31-34, 1994.

38. Lu, F., Vonshak, A. and Boussiba, S. Effect of temperature and irradiance on growth of Haematococcus pluvialis (Chlorophyceae) J. of Phycol. 30: 829-833, 1994.

39. Torzillo, G. and A. Vonshak. Effect of light and temperature on the photosynthetic capacity of the cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis. Biomass and Bioenergy 6: 399-403, 1994.

40. Tanticharoen, M., Reungjitchachawali, M., Boonag, B., Vonktaveesuk, P., Vonshak, A. and Cohen, Z. Optimization of g-linolenic acid (GLA) production in Spirulina platensis. J. Appl. Phycol. 6: 295-300, 1994.

41. Gitelson, A.A., Laorawat, S., Keydan, G.P. and Vonshak, A. Optical properties of dense algal cultures outdoors and its application to remote estimation of biomass and pigment concentration in Spirulina platensis (cyanobacteria), J. Phycol. 31: 828-834, 1995.

42. Lu, F., Vonshak, A., Gabbay, R., Hirshberg, Y., Cohen, Z., and Boussiba, S. The biosynthetic pathway of astaxanthin in a green alga Haematococcus pluvialis as indicated by inhibition with diphenylamine. Plant Cell Physiology 36:1519-1524, 1995.

43. Vonshak, A., Chanawongse, L., Bunnag, B. and Tanticharoen, M. Physiological characterization of Spirulina platensis isolates: response to light and salinity,  Plant Physiology (Life Science Advances) 14: 161-166, 1995.

44. Vonshak, A., Chanawongse, L., Bunnag, B. and Tanticharoen, M. Light acclimation and photoinhibition in three Spirulina platensis isolates. J. Appl. Phycol. 8: 35-40, 1996.

45. Vonshak, A., Kancharaksa, N., Bunnag, B. and Tanticharoen, M. Role of light and photosynthesis on the acclimation process of the cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis to salinity stress. J. of Appl. Phycol. 8: 119-124, 1996.

46. Vonshak, A., Torzillo, G., Accolla, P. and Tomaselli, L. Light and oxygen stress in Spirulina platensis (cyanobacteria) grown outdoors in tubular reactors. Physiologia Plantarum, 97: 175-179, 1996.

47. Vachhani, A.K. and Vonshak, A. Recombination protein A gene, recA, from Spirulina platensis sp. IAM-M135. J. of Appl. Phycol., 8: 563-564, 1997.

48. Lu, F., Vonshak, A., Zarka, A. and Boussiba, S. Does astaxanthin protect Haematococcus against light damage? Zeitschrift für Naturforschung, 53c: 93-100, 1998.

49. Zeng, M.T. and Vonshak, A. Adaptation of Spirulina platensis to salinity-stress. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, A. Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 120/121: 113-118, 1998.

50. Lu, C.M., Zhang, J. and Vonshak, A. Inhibition of quantum yield of PS II electron transport in Spirulina platensis by osmotic stress may be explained mainly by an increase in the proportion of the QB-non-reducing PS II reaction centers. Aust. J. Plant Physiol., 25: 689-694, 1998.

51. Lu, C.M. and Vonshak, A. Characterization of PSII photochemistry in salt-adapted cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis cells. The New Phytologist, 141/2: 231-239, 1999.

52. Lu, C.M., Torzillo, G. and Vonshak, A. Kinetic response of photosystem II photochemistry in the cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis to high salinity is characterized by two distinct phases. Aust. J. Plant Physiol., 26(3):283-292, 1999.

53. Lu, C.M. and Vonshak, A. Photoinhibition in outdoor Spirulina platensis cultures assessed by polyphasic chlorophyll fluorescence transients. J. Appl. Phycol., 11: 355-359, 1999.

54. Vonshak, A., Cheung, S.M. and Chen, F. Mixotrophic growth modifies the response of Spirulina (Arthrospira) platensis (Cyanobacteria) cells to light. J. Phycol. 36:675-679, 2000.

55. Cao, J.X., Liang, D., Xu, Z.F., Qiu, G.H., Li, B.J. and Vonshak, A. Physico-chemical parameters influencing DNase activity of the cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis. Microbiological Research, 155(1):59-63, 2000.

56. Vonshak, A., Torzillo, G., Masojidek, J. and Boussiba, S. Sub-optimal morning temperature induces photoinhibition in dense outdoor cultures of the alga Monodus subterraneus (Eustigmatophyta). Plant, Cell & Environment 24: 1113-1118, 2001.

57. Lu, C.-M., Rao, K., Hall, D. and Vonshak, A. Production of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in Monodus subterraneus grown in a helical tubular photobioreactor as affected by cell density and light intensity. J. of Appl. Phycol.13: 517-522, 2001.

58. Lu, C.-M. and Vonshak, A. Effects of salinity stress on Photosystem II function in cyanobacterial Spirulina platensis cells. Physiologia Plantarum, 114: 405-413, 2002.

59. Bigogno, C., Khozin-Goldberg, I., Boussiba, S., Vonshak, A. and Cohen, Z. Lipid and fatty acid composition of the green alga Parietochloris incisa. Phytochemistry 60: 497-503, 2002.

60. Torzillo, G., Pushparaj, B., Masojidek, J. and Vonshak, A. Biological constrains in algal biotechnology. Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering, 8: 338-348, 2003.

61. Vonshak,  A, and Novoplansky, N. Acclimation to low temperature of two Arthrospira platensis ( Cyanobacteria ) strains involves down-regulation of PSII and improved resistance to photoinhibition. J. Phycol. 44: 1071–1079, 2008

62. Manandhar-Shrestha, K; Arad, S; Vonshak, A. DCMU-resistance mutation confers resistance to high salt stress in the red microalga Porphyridium sp (Rhodophyta). European J. of  Phycol. 44:   339-346 2009.

63. Fedoroff, N.V.,  Battisti, D.S.,  Beachy, R.N., Cooper, P.J.M., Fischhoff, D.A., Hodges, C.N., Knauf, V.C., Lobell, D., Mazur, B.J., Molden, D., Reynolds, M.P., Ronald, P.C., Rosegrant, M.W., Sanchez, P.A., Vonshak, A. and Zhu, J.-K. Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century. Science, 327: 833-34, (2010)

64. Chien, L-F. and Vonshak, A. Enzymatic antioxidant response to low-temperature acclimation in the cyanobacterium Arthrospira platensis. Journal of Applied Phycology, 23: 887-894, 2011

65. Vonshak, A, Laorawat, S., Bunnag, B, and M. Tanticharoen. The effect of light availability on the photosynthetic activity and productivity of outdoor cultures of Arthrospira platensis (Spirulina),  Journal of Applied Phycology, 26:1309–1315, 2014

66. Varshney, P., Mikulic, P., Vonshak, A., Beardall, J. and Wangikar, P.P. Extremophilic micro-algae and their potential contribution in biotechnology. Bioresource Technology, 184:363-372. 2015

67.     Jeamton W., Dulsawat S., Tanticharoen, T., Vonshak, A. and Cheevadhanarak, S.  Overcoming intrinsic restriction enzyme barriers enhances transformation efficiency in Arthrospira platens C1. Plant and Cell Physiology. 58(4): 822–830. 2017

68. Borowitzkaa, MA and Vonshak A., Scaling up microalgal cultures to commercial scale. European J. of Phycology. 52, (4) 407–418, 2017