Biocatalysis utilizes enzymes as catalysts for organic chemistry. The process enables “shortcuts” from alternative starting materials, as opposed to replacing a chemical step, resulting in a broader selection of possible routes for generating both novel products and optimizing existing product reactions.
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Iwona Kaluzna, Sales and Marketing Director at InnoSyn to learn about the key challenges and most exciting research areas in biocatalysis.
Laura Lansdowne (LL): What are the main challenges in industrial biocatalysis?
Iwona Kaluzna (IK): The complexity of small molecules is increasing and as a consequence, the demand for universal and robust biocatalysts has increased significantly over the last few years. The introduction of enzyme evolution and engineering revolutionized the field, but it might not be able to meet the high expectations of the community, especially, when it comes to discovering new functionalities.
LL: With the 2018 chemistry Nobel prize being jointly awarded to Frances H. Arnold for biocatalytic engineering, how do you see this field developing over the next decade?
IK: The extensive impact of directed evolution of enzymes revolutionized by Frances H. Arnold will definitely bring more awareness of biocatalytic engineering to the chemical society. It will also increase efficiency of that approach in pharma-relevant molecules, and in discovering new enzymatic reactions.
LL: What do you think are currently the most exciting research areas in biocatalysis?
IK: I find the current work carried out by Frances Arnold’s group focused on engineering enzymes to buildbonds which have not been seen in nature – such as carbon–boron and carbon–silicon – extremely fascinating.
LL: Do you believe that biocatalysis could ever completely replace transition metal processes?
IK: In my eyes, biocatalysis and chemocatalysis are complementary solutions in the development of sustainable chemical and pharmaceutical processes, therefore, both should be used in an unbiased way.
LL: We are looking forward to your presentation on “Development and Scale-up of Efficient Biocatalytic Oxidations using Oxygen”. Can you tell a little about what to expect?
IK: A demonstration of 4r biocatalyzed oxidative reactions performed at pilot plant scale will be presented. To ensure the development and demonstration of a broadly applicable technology platform we selected 4 enzyme classes directly or indirectly relying on molecular oxygen as oxidant, namely cytochrome P450 and Baeyer-Villiger monooxygenases (P450s and BVMOs) as well as alcohol oxidases and dehydrogenases (AOXs and ADHs).
LL: Can you tell us about your role at InnoSyn?
IK: As Sales and Marketing Director, I promote open and unbiased innovations available at InnoSyn which help to reduce the number of production steps in chemical and pharmaceutical processing which often goes hand-in-hand with reduction of energy, helping to reduce the environmental impact of such processes.
LL: What’s the most interesting chemistry paper you’ve read this year?
I would have to say: Thompson, et al. “Biocatalysis Using Immobilized Enzymes in Continuous Flow for the Synthesis of Fine Chemicals”
LL: 2019 is the international year of the periodic table. What is your favorite element and why?
IK: Gallium is a soft metal sometimes used in electronics. What’s amazing is that gallium will safely melt in human hands and then re-solidify once it drops back below its melting point.
LL: Who inspired you to follow a career in science?
IK: I’m Polish and I’m a woman therefore since my childhood I have always been inspired by Maria Sklodowska-Curie (Marie Curie).
Iwona Kaluzna was speaking with Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne, Senior Science Writer for Technology Networks.