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The challenge

Reducing reliance on petrochemicals

Biocatalysis is an attractive method making complex compounds, such as pharmaceuticals, due to the properties of enzymes (high specificity and high catalytic rate). Using enzymes in continuous flow reactors would allow us to ‘string together’ enzyme reactions, reducing the number of steps that require human intervention, and ‘intensifying’ the process (making more product with less input, less energy and producing less waste).

We’re making industry more sustainable with nanofactories that can convert simple, low-value feedstocks into high-value products, such as pharmaceuticals.

Unfortunately, continuous-flow applications for biocatalysis face significant technical obstacles, particularly for enzymes that require cofactors: small molecules that assist in the chemical reactions, but that need to be ‘recycled’ (chemically reset) to be reused. We have solved the most pressing of these obstacles: the provision of cofactor and cofactor recycling in flow, and enzyme immobilization without loss of activity. Our generalizable engineering approach allowed us to build complex, multistep flow reactors.

Our response

New engineering approaches

With our collaborators at the University of Manchester, we have devised a new approach to engineering enzymes, combining both protein and chemical engineering approaches, to build nanomachines that can efficiently catalyse these energy-intensive reactions and can be used in intensified, continuous flow reactors.

Each nanomachine catalyses a specific chemical reaction step. The nanomachines can be combined to create a nanofactory for multi-step manufacturing processes.

The results

Nanofactories for efficient and environmentally friendly manufacturing

We have developed and patented an approach to building nanofactories, comprised of several different nanomachines that can convert simple molecules into useful high-value molecules, such as pharmaceuticals (e.g. anti-diabetic drugs).

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