Nature Highlights Advancements in Biocatalysis
News May 11, 2012
Nature has published a paper that discusses the recent advances in biocatalysis, and the impact it is having on the commercial development of biofuels, renewable chemicals, and pharmaceutical products.
The paper was published by researchers at Codexis, Inc., Emory University, Greifswald University, Lonza AG, Merck, and Seoul National University.
The team identified directed evolution as a key component of the third wave in biocatalysis.
Dr. Gjalt Huisman, Vice President, Product Planning, Codexis Pharmaceuticals was a coauthor on this paper.
Directed evolution forms the foundation of Codexis’ CodeEvolver™ technology platform and has enabled the company to develop processes based on custom enzymes, or biocatalysts, to replace traditional chemical synthesis in the industrial manufacturing of pharmaceutical compounds.
The paper specifically highlights rapid progress in directed evolution, DNA sequencing, and gene synthesis as the key advancements made in directed evolution.
In directed evolution, researchers customize natural enzymes through genetic mutation, enabling the creation of new enzymes to perform specific tasks at industrial scale.
The technology is used worldwide to create more efficient, cleaner biological manufacturing processes for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
As the paper reports, “Over the last 10 years, scientific and technological advances have established biocatalysis as a practical and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional metallo- and organocatalysts in chemical synthesis, both at the bench and the industrial scale. [These] novel enzymes are needed today to convert biomass into second and third generation biofuels, [and] into materials and chemicals.”
“Codexis is proud to be at the forefront of the advancements made in directed evolution with our CodeEvolver™ directed evolution technology platform,” said David Anton, Ph.D., Codexis Chief Technology Officer.
Anton continued, “Publication of these developments reaffirms the merit of our 10-year effort to broaden and commercialize this technology platform. Our scientists have achieved numerous milestones in improved function over natural enzymes, including a 4,000-fold improvement of an enzyme for manufacture of an intermediate to atorvastatin (Nature Biotechnol. 2007, 25:338), a 27,000-fold improvement for an enzyme for manufacture of sitagliptin with Merck (Science, 2010, 329:305), and a more than 2 million-fold improvement in an enzyme for carbon capture. Today, we are deploying the most advanced directed evolution technologies to generate biocatalysts for application through global partnerships in the biofuels, bio-based chemicals, and pharmaceutical industries.”
Animal venoms are the subject of study at research center based at the Butantan Institute in São Paulo. But in this case, the idea is not to find antidotes, but rather to use the properties of the venoms themselves to identify molecular targets of diseases and, armed with that knowledge, develop new compounds that can be used as medicines.