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26th July 2019

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Using the right enzymes starts with identifying (and manufacturing) the right enzymes for testing

Author: Edmund Talideh, US Business Manager

It is well known that enzymes allow you to access new chemistries, and that they can improve the processing conditions for your processes. That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t know the exact enzyme you need? Further, what happens when you DO identify something you want, but can’t justify spending tens of thousands of dollars just to get your hands on a sample for testing? These are questions we’re very familiar with here at Biocatalysts, so we’ve been working hard to answer them.

As discussed in a previous post, out of the millions of enzymes available in nature, only a fraction have been characterised, with only a fraction of THOSE being commercialised. This means that you could scour every single enzyme supplier on the planet, and still only be sampling a tiny fraction of the enzyme world. Recent advances in the manipulation of mega data and new tools available to identify genes and manipulate them into expression systems have given the biotechnology industry significantly improved access to this natural pool of candidates. Additionally, developments in gene editing is also offering ways to edit nature to create enzymes with new substrate specificities, or even improve an enzyme’s physical operating envelope (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128132807000396)

Typically, these discovery / development companies operate on their own. At Biocatalysts, we realised if we could incorporate these new technologies under one roof, we could fundamentally change the way novel enzymes are developed. We were already the world leader in the enzyme product development pathway (i.e. going from gene to off-the-shelf product in record time and cost). To support this and bring enzyme discovery capabilities to Biocatalysts, we brought metagenomic data in-house by developing a bespoke software system MetXtra™ capable of screening millions of sequences to identify new enzymes in a few hours, dramatically improving our ability to find the right enzyme in the first place. Excitingly, we are now also able to offer function-driven metagenomics and protein engineering from our parent company BRAIN AG, meaning we have every opportunity to find the exact enzyme you need. Take a look at our recent technical paper on Biocatalysts’ and BRAIN’s joint metagenomic offering – Download Technical Paper

We have answered the first question – how to find the right enzyme. But what if you don’t want to spend tens of thousands of pounds/dollars just to test if the enzyme you have discovered works? Historically, the only route to testing enzymes was to isolate the gene, put it in a production host, ferment it at small scale, and harvest the enzyme. This traditionally took months of time (and therefore money), so few companies wanted to fund these types of projects to find, sample, develop, and supply an enzyme on a chance it would meet their specific requirements (which makes sense).

Biocatalysts realised early that this model needed to be updated and as part of our continuous commitment to new technologies, we acquired in vitro protein synthesis technology. This is an automated system that basically works like this:

in vitro protein synthesis

This means we can supply enzyme panels of Research Grade in 0.5-1g aliquots for testing/screening, for less than $5k and in a matter of weeks.

What does this mean for you?

Simply, that Biocatalysts has fundamentally changed the way novel enzymes are discovered, developed and commercialised, giving you access to enzymes at a cost that is accessible in realistic time frames that gives you the opportunity to promptly produce new products in response to the market. Why look anywhere else?

Using the right enzymes diagram

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