Tame the enzyme zoo – make them work together in one pot!
Currently most pharmaceuticals are produced in long, laborious, step-by-step reactions. My goal is to simplify these reactions by performing them in one pot. 75% of all of those pharmaceuticals contain an amine-group- meaning having nitrogen attached to it. The biocatalysts or enzymes I am working with- the transaminases- are especially good at adding these amine groups to a molecule. On top of that, they are biodegradable. Another advantage of enzymes is that they work under conditions that could be described as more “natural” for us. Classical chemical reactions usually require high temperatures or high pressure. Enzymes, on the other hand, work at room temperature under normal pressure and air conditions.
The field I am working in and studied is called biotechnology. Early on in my studies at RWTH Aachen, Germany I became fascinated with enzymes as elegant, efficient and versatile catalysts, making them my subject of study both in my bachelor (NTNU Trondheim, Norway) and master thesis (Forschungszentrum Juelich, Germany). Since May 2015 I am working on my PhD project ”Upscaling of ω-transaminase catalysed cascade reactions for high-value chemicals production “ here as an ESR (early stage researcher) in the BIOCASCADES project (Marie Curie Actions EU program) at KTH in the group of Per Berglund.
My challenge now is to tame the so-called wildtype enzymes existent in nature and modify them for the molecule I want them to make. Then I have to find the right conditions for them to produce the desired pharmaceutical molecule in one pot. Thereby, the production of pharmaceuticals is cheaper, greener and more energy-efficient.