International Centre for Enzyme Design (ICED)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


Biocatalysis is a sustainable technology that harnesses the power of Nature's catalysts, known as enzymes, to perform chemical reactions. Enzymes are inexpensive, biodegradable, produced from renewable feedstocks, operate under environmentally benign reaction conditions and speed up chemical processes with remarkable efficiency and selectivity. For these reasons, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries routinely use certain classes of enzymes in commercial manufacturing processes to replace chemical transformations that are inefficient and/or have a high environmental burden. For example, engineered enzymes are now used to produce pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, recycle plastics and capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus contributing to a more efficient and sustainable chemical industry. However, enzymes found in Nature are usually not suitable for use in industrial applications and must first be optimized to improve properties such as catalytic efficiency, selectivity, and stability. Directed evolution is a powerful and versatile technology for adapting enzymes to make them suitable for use in commercial processes, but it is a costly and time-consuming process that requires specialist instrumentation only available in a handful of labs. Moreover, many chemical processes use non-natural reactions for which there are no known enzymes that can serve as starting templates for optimization. In this application, we will establish The International Centre for Enzyme Design (ICED), bringing together world leaders in computational protein design, enzyme engineering and industrial biocatalysis, to change the way that industrial biocatalysts are developed in the future. ICED will establish a fully integrated computational and experimental program, integrating the latest deep learning protein design tools with advanced experimental methods for enzyme engineering, to allow the reliable and predictable design of new and improved enzymes with a wide range of useful activities. In this way, ICED will deliver a step-change needed in the field to allow the rapid design of customized biocatalysts in response to diverse societal needs.


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