NSERC Industrial Biocatalysis Network

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.

The goal of the IBN is to strategically mine existing sequence datasets created during recent large scale and broad genomics projects to reveal new enzymes and pathways through detailed enzyme functional analyses supported by bioinformatics, structural and omics tools and data.

Our aim is to develop well-defined bioprocesses that can then be configured for the synthesis of a focused set of commodity chemicals, polymers, and valuable natural products, starting from renewable and low-cost carbon sources. In order to focus efforts for greater impact in Canada and to make the best use of the available budget, the scope of research under the IBN has been strategically restricted to bioprocesses that are constructive, from the perspective of generating chemical precursors yielding high-value, functionalized biopolymers. This focus clearly distinguishes the goals of the IBN from other programs involved in the saccharification of lignocellulosic materials toward biofuels production.

In collaboration with leading industry partners, the IBN will create a coordinated biocatalysis platform that will help develop biotechnologies for a broad range of sectors, including food, feed, chemicals, environmental remediation, forestry, mining and energy. Network members currently include DuPont Canada, Elanco Animal Health, Lallemand, Cansyn, Suncor and Monaghan Bioscience, who help guide the research direction and application. Our partners will benefit from first access to cutting-edge research results in a highly timely and efficient manner. Our industry partners contribute to the nomination of specific relevant enzymes families for the manufacture of high-value bioproducts from complex carbohydrates, polymer precursors, and polyketides, which will form the basis for the development of new and improved processes and pathways.

Armed with access to industrially-relevant microbial genes genomes, metagenomes and pathways, unparalleled computational skills, optimized protein production and pathway engineering, cutting edge facilities and expertise in application development beyond conventional biochemical assays, the IBN represents an exceptional opportunity for creating novel biocatalyst-based industrial processes.