The history of PYCC

From 1952 to the present
Prof. Nicolau van Uden

PYCC was founded in 1952 by Nicolau van Uden, who headed the Collection until 1991. vanUden was born in Venlo (The Netherlands) in 1921 and got a degree in medicine in Vienna. He began his research in a clinical laboratory of Dermatology in Vienna. He married a member of the Portuguese royal family and moved to Portugal where he worked as an invited researcher in a small laboratory in the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. 

In 1956 he published the first report on the detection of Candida albicans, a pathogenic yeast, in vegetables. Besides studying other pathogens like Cryptococcus neoformans, van Uden was also interested in yeast ecology. He described and analysed the intestinal yeast-microbiota of domestic animals (cattle, horses, sheep, goats and swine) and African wild animals. During his travels to Mozambique he isolated yeasts associated with the intestinal tract of hippopotami, wart hogs, bush pigs and baboons.

During this period of yeast ‘‘hunting’’ in nature, his interests extended to aquatic yeasts of lakes and sea. Several new species were described from surveys carried out in the Atlantic ocean. These ecological surveys provided a rich and diverse assemblage of strains that made the bulk of the collection in its yearly years. When van Uden was already a recognized yeast specialist, he integrated the newly created Gulbenkian Institute of Science and become director of the Laboratory of Microbiology, where he worked for the rest of his life.

Prof. Isabel Spencer-Martins

PYCC was housed successively in the Laboratory of Mycology of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (1952-1966) and in the Laboratory of Microbiology of the Gulbenkian Institute of Science (IGC) in Oeiras (1966-1996). PYCC was transferred to its present-day location, FCT/UNL - Faculty of Sciences and Technology, Universidade Nova de Lisboa in 1996. Upon the transfer to FCT/UNL the collection's acronym was changed from IGC to PYCC. It was headed by Prof. Isabel Spencer-Martins until 2008. Álvaro Fonseca was appointed coordinator of PYCC in 2009 and was replaced by José Paulo Sampaio in 2012.

PYCC has a long tradition of association with research on yeast systematics and ecology. PYCC staff and collaborators were involved in international courses on yeast taxonomy in 1986, 1988 and 1990 at IGC; in 2003 at FCT/UNL. More recently PYCC has established fruitful partnerships with Biotech companies in the areas of culture authentication and preservation and in R&D.