Unlocking the potential of the natural and artificial diversity for the bioeconomy
Unlocking the potential of the natural and artificial diversity for the bioeconomy using (ultra)high-throughput methods.
The application of enzymes in industrial processes is increasingly important to achieve the EU’s sustainability goals and strengthen the bioeconomy, replacing oil-based chemistry. Society demands more environment-friendly,healthier products and cleaner energy. While enzymes have the potential to meet these demands, they still find several hurdles for their industrial application: low success rates of discovery and engineering; tedious and expensive methods to explore diversity and limited activity/stability in the final application.
The microbial diversity represents an unfathomable source of enzymes for the bioeconomy, but only a small fraction can be cultivated. For this reason, it is an underexplored source of bioactive compounds, carbohydrate polymers and enzymes, among others. Sampling the natural microbial diversity, screening, identifying and isolating the relevant genes is cumbersome, expensive and results in a heavy environmental burden, low yields, high costs and long times to market, in particular if we opt for function-based, information-agnostic methods as a gateway to new diversity that could not be found otherwise.
Throughout the course of EU-funded proyects CarbaZymes, MetaFluidics, RadicalZ and BlueTools, we have been developing (and will develop) technology to overcome the limitations both for the study of microbial communities and their “econological use” and to tailor the discovered enzymes towards industrial applications. Our methods for enzyme discovery in the natural and artificial diversity make use of whole cells (in vivo) or cell-like compartments (in vitro) for recombinant expression, reducing the average time for enzyme discovery and evolution while increasing the amount of sampled sequence space.