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Northumbria researchers help large corporates improve their products

Nzomics, a service set up by researchers at Northumbria University’s Department of Applied Sciences, develops biocatalysts that enable pharmaceutical and chemical companies to run their processes in a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective way.

When compared with conventional catalysts, which are often based on precious or rare-earth metals, biocatalysts are based on naturally sourced enzymes and allow companies to run their processes at lower temperatures, lower pressures and in a less caustic environment. Enzymes also often react in a very specific way, enabling chemical companies to manufacture compounds that are not possible with more traditional means.

The biocatalysts developed at Nzomics have applications in a range of industries including pharmaceutical, fine chemical, food and biofuels. The company has worked with a diverse range of clients, including specialist companies such as Chemoxy and Prozomix.

Nzomics was set up because the advent of genome sequencing and the invention of molecular biology tools have enabled the translation of primary amino acid sequence from a public database to pure expression in a cell factory in a matter of weeks. Additionally, “The approach of rationally sampling sequence diversity from public dtatabases, i.e. the number of possible amino acid sequences that can generate a particular enzyme activity, results in a range of enzyme selectivities “ explains Gary Black, technical director of Nzomics. “These advances have meant enzyme technology is now an economically viable solution to many chemical problems,” explains Justin Perry, commercial director of Nzomics. “Not only do we offer a cost-effective and more environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional catalysts, we also enable customers to make their own catalysts rather than be dependent on the continuously fluctuating global precious and rare-earth metal markets. This gives our customers security over supply.”

Nzomics’ work has had an impact on a variety of companies, from SMEs to large pharma, and has facilitated high-value manufacturing in the UK.

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