Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Biocatalysts for green chemicals

Project Acronym: BIONEXGEN

Title of project: Developing the Next Generation of Biocatalysts for Industrial Chemical Synthesis

Research area: Biotechnology for 'greening' the chemical industry - Industrial bioprocesses for fine and speciality chemicals and intermediates

Contract No: 266025

EU Contribution: 7 770 000 EURO

Start date: 01-02-2011

Duration: 36 Months


Developing the use of biocatalysts within the chemical manufacturing industry could lead to efficient production routes to high yields of complex chemicals, whilst using less energy and generating less waste than conventional processes. A collaboration by 17 industrial and academic partners has identified a number of key areas where application of the next generation of biocatalysts that will lead to such technical benefits. These include the fields of amine synthesis, production of polymers from renewable resources, glycoscience and the wider application of oxidases. Routes to specialised, high-value chemicals (e.g. chiral chemical compounds) normally require long chemical synthetic routes involving complex reaction steps with potentially toxic side products and waste streams. This project will allow these methods to be replaced by clean bio-catalysis routes. The economic viability and eco-efficiency for the processes investigated will be evaluated and assessed on a quantitative basis.

Expected Impact

This project is expected to have a significant impact on developing what has been termed Green Chemistry. This covers the design of chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate substances hazardous to human health and the environment. Such developments are supported by the EU Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy (SCP/SIP) Action Plan (COM/2008/0397) that includes a series of proposals on sustainable consumption and production that will contribute to improving the environmental performance of products and increase the demand for more sustainable goods and production technologies. It is also relevant in the context of REACH (the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation) which, amongst other wider objectives, seeks safer manufacturing processes. The project is also significant in terms of the development of White Biotechnology that is expected to grow to become a major source of future business and revenue in the chemical sector: the further development of the new generation of biocatalysts identified by partners within this project should lead to economic and environmental improvements in the manufacture of a range of chemicals, including pharmaceuticals and polymers. The impact of the work will be enhanced by a strategy to present results to the wider public and at various venues.

Expected Results

This project is expected to broaden the range of fine and speciality chemicals and intermediates produced by biotechnological routes by undertaking interdisciplinary research into the following areas - (i) the design and optimisation of enzymes to be used in synthetic chemistry; (ii) the selection/development of modified microorganisms which are resistant to heat, pressure or pH extremes when used in the production of chemical entities; (iii) the integration of biotechnological steps into conventional chemical processes.

Chemical and biotechnological steps will be combined into manufacturing routes for the synthesis of fine and speciality chemicals. A key strength of this project is the strong involvement of industrial partners who will ensure application of new technologies developed. The main focus will be on the production of amines, oligosaccharides and renewable polymer intermediates. These new synthetic routes are expected to be better in terms of eco-efficiency, economic potential, complexity and /or specificity of the synthetic pathways than those currently employed.

Website of project:


Coordinator: Nick Turner,

Organisation the University of Manchester, Centre of Excellence in Biocatalysis (CoEBio3), UK,


Entrechem SL, Spain,

Chemistry Innovation Limited, United Kingdom,

Lentikat's A.S., Czech Republic,

Acib Gmbh, Austria,

Clea Technologies BV, Netherlands,

Leibniz-Institut Fur Pflanzenbiochemie, Germany,

Mikrobiologicky Ustav - Avcr, V.V.I., Czech Republic,

Slovenska Technicka Univerzita v Bratislave, Slovakia,

Galab Laboratories Gmbh, Germany,

Universitaet Stuttgart, Germany,

Universidad de Oviedo, Spain,

BASF, Germany,

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Netherlands,

Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan, Sweden,

Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, Denmark,

University College London, United Kingdom,