NSERC Industrial Biocatalysis Network

Instead of using fossil fuels to make plastics and industrial chemicals, what if we could harness eco-friendly enzymes “nature’s smallest helpers” to do the work?

Enzymes, present in all cells, act as the catalysts that make nearly all of nature’s chemical transformations happen. In the most basic sense, they turn one substance into another, such as changing cellulose into nutrient-rich glucose in a decomposing log, or breaking down fat and starch in your digestive system.

Through the new IBN, researchers from the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, Concordia University and industry partners will work together to find enzymes that can convert renewable resources, such as agricultural or forestry waste, into new materials. These processes could substantially reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels.

Recent genomic research has revealed tens of thousands of new enzymes, many of which may have capabilities relevant to industrial manufacturing. The IBN brings together a unique and world-leading combination of expertise in bioinformatics, bioengineering and fungal, yeast and bacterial enzymology to discover greener methods for manufacturing.

The IBN has been designed to support Canada’s growth in the emerging bio-based chemical and materials sector. Industrial partners include several manufacturing, chemical and petroleum companies, such as CanSyn Chem Corp., DuPont Canada Inc., Elanco Animal Health/Division of Eli Lilly, Lallemand Inc., Monaghan Biosciences Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc.