A new international consortium of more than 20 partners from academia and industry from 12 countries, including leading multinational industrial partners, joined for a four year EUR 6M collaborative project. The project INMARE ("Industrial Applications of Marine Enzymes: innovative screening and expression platforms to discover and use the functional protein diversity from the sea") is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Program and led by Prof. Peter Golyshin and Dr. Olga Golyshina from Bangor University (Great Britain). Vilnius University will be represented by the scientists from the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology (Institute of Biochemistry), headed by Dr. Rolandas Meškys.
The Project INMARE will focus on the search for novel microbial enzymes and metabolites as well as their industrial application, for targeted production of fine chemicals, environmental clean-up technologies and anti-cancer drugs in particular.
Addressing some of the major challenges that lie ahead, Prof. Peter Golyshin explains: "An important bottleneck in industrial applications of enzymes is rather labor intensive and costly (and rarely successful) enzyme optimization process which seeks to make enzymes more stable and perform better in the harsh environment of industrial processes. Our task will be to identify befitting enzymes using corresponding screening conditions, at the very early stages."
VU team will focus mainly on the development of innovative enzyme-screening techniques, involving the construction of tailored microorganisms and the synthesis of smart substrates.
The companies involved in the project, such as Bayer, Novozymes and others, are market leaders in enzyme production as well as biocatalysis, and aim to deliver safer, cheaper and biobased products. In addition, all participating companies feel responsible and committed to render chemical processes greener. Other industrial partners have impressive track records in discovery of natural products for biomedical purposes, especially anti-cancer therapy (PharmaMar), environmental clean-up applications (INOFEA) and biocatalysis for the fine chemicals (evocatal GmbH).
Majority of industrial biotechnology processes are microbial-based. In this regard, marine environments, which represent the largest diversity of yet unstudied genes, enzymes and natural products that could be of use to industry, offer particularly valuable "hunting grounds". Of a special interest are the microbes which survive in extreme conditions, such as extreme pressure, salinity or temperature, and, as such, they could provide enzymes that are able to perform in industrial settings under harsh physical and chemical conditions.