Enzyme engineering for fuels and chemicals
New 'synthetic biology' or metabolic engineering approaches to producing fuels and chemicals from renewable resources requires rerouting reactants in a metabolic network or the bottom-up integration of totally new pathways into existing ones. This means transplanting enzymes into biochemical contexts possibly very different from their native ones. And what's optimal for fuel production is hardly optimal for survival and fitness of the organism in which the enzymes evolved in nature. For example, a high titer of product is something that balanced metabolic enzyme networks usually try to evade. Many enzyme characteristics (e.g. stability, specific activity, cofactor usage, inhibition or regulation) have to be specifically tailored in order to optimize metabolic flux towards the desired fuel or chemical.
Enzyme engineering is a rapidly developing field, with loads of potential for green technology. We are developing new tools for protein engineering and using them to create new and improved catalysts for carbon fixation, sugar release from renewable polymers such as cellulose, and biosynthesis of fuels and chemicals.
Follow these links to read more about some of our current projects: