Here at Biocatalysts, we encounter a large number of unique industries, each with their own unique clients, each of which has their own unique needs and drivers. Outside of the existing enzyme-dependent industries (like Food, or Flavour & Fragrance), one of the questions I hear pretty commonly here in the Chicago office is “why would I develop a new enzyme when there are so many off-the-shelf enzymes available to order?”
This question is actually quite simple to answer, but the reason it’s asked is steeped in stubborn paradigm and misconceptions about biology.
Firstly, it’s important to note that enzymes can do almost anything:
(Credit for photo to XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1430/)
Secondly, there’s a misconception about biological systems being unpredictable and non-specific. While that may be true of some facets of biology, it couldn’t be further from the truth for enzymes. Enzymes are molecular machines (i.e. chemicals with tertiary structure) so they can have extremely acute reaction specificities. In fact, enzymes can be more than molecule-specific - they are often used to produce enantiomerically-pure chemicals where physical chemistry fails to deliver them (my apologies to all my Chemical Engineer friends). They are so good at what they do that choosing one with the appropriate optimal operating conditions almost always brings your reaction conditions closer to ambient, thereby saving time, energy, and simplifying processing.
Thirdly, only a fraction of the millions of enzymes that exist have been studied in the literature, and only a fraction of those have been commercialised. This means that if you take every single commercially available enzyme from every single commercial enzyme supplier, you’re still only seeing a fraction of a fraction of all the enzymes available in biology. What are the chances that the off-the-shelf enzyme you see online is the best possible fit for your process? Tiny, that’s what.
Fourthly, as with almost all high-tech, biotechnology methods are becoming faster, cheaper, and better (see this whitepaper). In fact, there is so much happening to improve the state of the art that Biocatalysts invests full-time personnel in the pursuit of new and better technologies.
To top it all off, Biocatalysts is one of the very few companies that can do both the development and routine commercial supply of enzyme products, and we’ve been doing it for decades. Further, when you work with us the product is completely free of IP and license issues, and we sell it exclusively to you…
So to answer the titular question of “Why use a standard off-the-shelf enzyme when you could use a customised enzyme that is unique to you?”, I say “Because it’s cheap, quick, and you get a tailored and exclusive product from the world leader in the field.”
We do all our-desk-based research and proposal writing for free, so what’s the harm in asking?
We look forward to hearing from you!
By Edmund Talideh
USA Business Development Manager
This blog was originally posted on the Biocatalysts Blog.