BASF ups research into enzymes

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Metabolism Bacteria BASF

Global chemcials giant BASF has announced a co-operation agreement
with the University of Manchester in the UK to increase research in
the area of enzymes, an initiative that could lead to progress in
the field of polymers for cosmetics.

The company has pledged €1m for its Center of Excellence in Biocatalysis, Biotransformation and Biomanufacturing (CoEBio3) to work alongside researchers at the university in a programme that will last three years.

Currently BASF uses enzymes for White Biotechnology - a process that relies on biocatalysts that to produce a variety of consumer products and improve existing processes. Currently one of the most significant applications is as intermediaries for the pharmaceutical industry.

However, the company believes that the research programme could help to expand the current range of applications within a number of consumer-driven industries, including the creation of novel polymers for the cosmetics industries.

Speaking about the project, Dr. Alfred Hackenberger, head of BASF's Specialty Chemicals Research division, said: "A major advantage is that chemists and biologists work hand in hand and target their efforts toward meeting the requirements of industry. The research alliance will allow BASF to benefit from the know-how of scientists based outside the company. In addition, the university will undertake the very time-consuming basic research involved."

The deal means that the Manchester University scientists will be responsible for screening the enzymes for potential technological benefits. This process will focus on the screening of soil, which is rich in microorganisms that depend on enzymes to propel the metabolic functions necessary to cope with a variety of environmental conditions.

The researchers will consider what each organism can do and evaluate whether individual capabilities are of interest in the process of chemical production. Any special properties will mean that the research process will be continued, to define which of the innumerable enzymes in the microorganism's metabolism is responsible for that particular function.

As well as discovering new enzymes, the alliance also aims to optimize the performance of existing biocatalysts, through evolution methods. This will see scientists produce numerous variants of the enzyme and then use high throughput screening to determine which variants might improve on the original enzyme.

Optimized enzymes will then be used as a basis for manufacturing and reviewing newer variants, which is repeated until newer biocatalysts with desired performance are identified. features has been identified.

BASF alliance with the Manchester scientists is not the only agreement it has made in the search for new enzymes and their optimization. This year alone, other co-operation agreements were signed with universities in Graz, Austria, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, Germany.

In total BASF is involved in more than 30 research alliances in the area of White Biotechnology alone.

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