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Microbial Enzymes For Sustainable Detergents, Textiles And Cosmetics

The Bangor University team are part of an EU-funded multidisciplinary research consortium FuturEnzyme, “Technologies of the future for low-cost enzymes for environment-friendly products”

The academic and industrial partners involved are led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). Their aim is to develop more environmentally friendly new microbial enzymes that can be used in manufacturing consumer products. The project, FuturEnzyme, started this month and has a funding of six million Euros from the Horizon 2020 framework program.

Complex formulas within items of daily use such as detergents, textiles and cosmetics can damage the environment. Their production creates a large amount of carbon dioxide emissions, uses vast amounts of energy and water and discharges chemical products into the environment.
Professor Peter Golyshin leads the team who will be contributing from Bangor University. He explains:
One of the most promising ways to alleviate this problem is based on substituting chemical agents used in industrial processes by enzymes. Their use in liquid detergents, as well as in the processing of textiles and cosmetic ingredients, could reduce CO2 emissions by 42 million tons per year, according to recent estimates.

Although enzymes that cover these activities already exist on the market, less than 10% of current consumer products contain enzymes, either because of their high cost or low performance. 

"Current enzymes cannot cope with the formulation of higher environmental quality consumer products. It is crucial to design smart technologies based on a new generation of enzymes with higher activity, stability and lower cost, which can meet the demands of both consumers and industry," points Manuel Ferrer, CSIC researcher at the Institute of Catalysis (ICP-CSIC) and Coordinator of this Project. 

To achieve this, FuturEnzyme consortium will initially focus on detergents, cosmetics and sportswear already available on the market. 

"It's not about designing new consumer products that would take years to market, but about improving existing ones to make them more environmentally friendly, functional and sustainable by incorporating enzymes in the production process", Ferrer adds.

“These enzymes will be selected from a range of microorganisms and microbial genomic libraries that we and other partners have sourced from previous large collaborative research and innovation projects,” says Prof Peter Golyshin, who leads Bangor University’s Centre for Environmental Biotechnology (CEB). 

The technology will combine a massive analysis of biological data using supercomputers, bioprospecting, protein engineering, biotechnology and pre-industrial testing to select the best enzymes from thousands of enzyme candidates, at a scale that has previously not been possible.

The FuturEnzyme multidisciplinary consortium is composed of 16 European academic and industrial partners (market leaders and SMEs) from Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Portugal, United Kingdom and Switzerland. Bangor team (Peter Golyshin, Alexander Yakunin, Olga Golyshina, Marco Distaso and Tatyana Chernikova) will focus on high-throughput, small-scale production and characterisation of enzyme candidates important in industrial manufacturing of textiles, personal care products and detergents. Bangor University will receive EUR 550k for this project, which is funded for four years. 

Publication date: 8 June 2021

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