26th October 2018Back
Author: Dr. Mark Blight, Senior New Product Development Scientist
The 6th Novel Enzymes conference was held in the delightful city of Darmstadt, Germany on 9th – 12th October 2018. It provided a platform for the 270 plus attendees to share some of the latest and exciting developments in applied biocatalysis. The 4 day meeting was organised by the Technische Universitat Darmstadt (Prof. Wolf-Deiter Fessner as Chairman of the Organising Committee) and the European Commission Horizon 2020 Programme, CarbaZymes. The organisers’ goal was to provide an overview of recent cutting-edge developments and the future perspectives of enzymology research. The 36 lectures and 92 posters certainly achieved this.
Biocatalysts Ltd presented a poster on our novel metagenomics platform, MetXtra™, whilst colleagues from BRAIN AG presented posters on the biotechnological production of lubricant additives from renewable resources and rational enzyme design using CRISPR editing.
A great majority of the presented research focused strongly upon the detailed enzyme mechanistics for organic biocatalysis. The emphasis was on understanding how this could be exploited to expand substrate specificity and hence expand product variety for novel valuable chemical products and to exploit protein engineering to access novel catalytic activities. Much of the methodology employed to this end involved structure guided protein engineering, although there were also presentations on other less guided mutagenesis studies that were producing the first generation of modified variants for screening.
Some novel technologies were also presented. Most notably:
- the use of droplet microfluidics for biodiversity screening for thermostable enzymes
- nanoDSF (Differential Scanning Fluorescence) to rapidly screen for modified thermal properties in enzymes and the tantalising bioinformatics approaches for using 3D-point clouds to predict enzyme activity (Innophore),
- improvements to the already popular 3DM toolbox for protein engineering projects (Bio-Prodict)
- molecular dynamics simulations that facilitate sequence-function understanding by treating active sites as dynamic, mobile structures and not rigid as they are tend to be portrayed on paper.
The conference was celebrated with a convivial evening at the Braustüb’l microbrewery and restaurant to sample their wares and good food. The organisers, their team of assistants, sponsors and catering services deserve hearty congratulations for an excellent meeting and I have never eaten so many German pastries in one week! I look forward to the next event in 2020.