Biocatalysis uses enzymes to perform chemical transformations on organic compounds. It’s a practical and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical synthesis. Founded in 2015, the Biocataylsis and Biosynthesis platform has made great progress in tailoring new biocatalysts and working with industry to scale-up and implement biocatalysis in their operations. In June 2023, the platform organized the CCBIO Symposium at the ZHAW Competence Center of Biocatalysis (CCBIO) in Wädenswil. Chaired by Rebecca Buller, the conference gave 130 participants the opportunity to network and discover the latest research including fluorine biocatalysis, biosynthetic cascades, and metalloenzymes, as well as how large industry is implementing biocatalysis in its research and manufacturing.
Adding fluorine atoms onto organic structures is a unique strategy to tune molecular properties. However, organofluorides are scarce in nature. Pablo Nikel (University of Denmark) showed how novel fluorinating enzymes mined from extreme environments and synthetic gene circuits can be combined in the platform bacterium Pseudomonas putida to synthesize fluorinated building blocks.
Biosynthetic Cascades for organic synthesis
Non-natural synthetic cascades can be used to generate complex valuable chemicals from simple precursors. The toolbox of available biocatalyst is expanding, and, in consequence, options for employing enzymatic transformations. Sabine Flitsch (University of Manchester) discussed several successful de novo cascades and showed how a computational tool - RetroBioCat – can be used to plan biocatalytic cascades and reactions.
Bridging synthetic chemistry and biology: the role of metalloenzymes
Enzymes containing metals or metal cofactors catalyze a broad range of challenging chemical reactions such as methane oxidation or nitrogen fixation. Xiongyi Huang (Johns Hopkins University) and his group draw inspiration from mechanistic connections between synthetic and biocatalytic systems. They reprogrammed nonheme iron enzymes to catalyze abiological C(sp3)–H functionalization reactions through iron-catalyzed radical relay, a reaction mechanism that is not utilized by naturally occurring enzymes.
Biocatalysis at Novartis Pharma
Biocatalysis is increasingly used in industry and is a valuable tool for pharmaceutical research and development. Thierry Schlama (Novartis Pharma AG) gave an overview on how biocatalysis is used at Novartis through early phase to full scale manufacturing and how enzymes are optimized for specific applications.