Discover the intercluster project EnzyMares
The intercluster project EnzyMares is a joint initiative of the Flemish spearhead clusters Catalisti, Blue Cluster and Flanders' FOOD that can count on financial support from Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). The project was recently approved and will officially launch on 1 September 2021.
An excess of enzymes
Enzymes can be found everywhere. They are used in chemical substances, pharmaceutical products, food and (aqua)feed products, textiles and cosmetics. As they are biologically degradable and non-toxic, enzymes are an attractive alternative for chemical additives or catalysts. Enzymatic catalysis therefore has the potential to make the raw material and energy consumption of industrial processes more efficient, and thus contribute to a more sustainable industry.
Given its wide range of applications and sustainable profile, it is no surprise that the global demand for enzymes is growing rapidly. There is a search for (new) enzymes that perform better in terms of substrate selectivity, inhibition sensitivity, chiral selectivity, pH and temperature range. There is also an increased focus on the enzymes’ performance in extreme conditions, such as high salt tolerance, hyperthermostability, barophilia and cold adaptivity.
Fortunately, biological sources, and especially marine environments, offer many opportunities to discover new enzymes. Moreover, while current research mainly focuses on obtaining enzymes from microbial organisms, complexer eukaryotic organisms may represent another untapped reservoir of new enzymes.
… but difficult to discover
It is not easy to tap into this reservoir and find the right enzymes. Nowadays, most new enzymes are found by functional screening of genomic libraries and comparison with biological databases. Once interesting enzymes have been identified, their performance in industrial applications is assessed.
This assessment can take years, and even then, the majority of enzymes identified during the screening process turn out to be not particularly useful. In short, finding the right enzymes is extremely time-consuming and demanding, which slows down their assessment and application.
Optimising enzyme discovery
The intercluster project EnzyMares aims to develop a toolbox to discover valuable marine enzymes in an easier way. The toolbox will optimise the enzyme discovery process by:
- developing an improved, high-quality database integrating different types of molecular and biological data;
- adding ecological information about organisms and their habitat, as organisms living in extreme habitats are more likely to produce enzymes capable of performing under extreme conditions;
- adding process parameters and performance needs to the database at an early stage, to ensure that enzymes are indeed fit for purpose, to significantly increase the number of qualitative hits and to shorten the time-to-market.
A toolbox integrating various types of molecular data, ecological information, process parameters and performance needs will increase the chances of success in the enzyme discovery process. Moreover, by exploring the diversity of enzymes in more complex organisms, a “new world” of previously unknown enzymes can be made available for application by the industry.
This, in turn, increases the application potential of enzymatic catalysis in industrial processes. Through its innovative toolbox, EnzyMares aims to contribute to the success of (marine) enzymes as sustainable biocatalysts and support companies in making their processes and products more sustainable.