Our Science for industrial Enzymes

BASF creates and produces high performance enzyme products that meet high-value commercial needs. Our world-class R&D organization is renowned for its ability to rapidly screen, identify and express enzymes that are catalysts for a broad range of chemical reactions.

Enzymes in our daily lives

Enzymes are specialized proteins that speed up (catalyze) chemical reactions in every living organism. Without enzymes, biological processes would occur much too slowly to sustain life. Enzymes are so powerful that one single enzyme can process up to one million molecules every second. Since enzymes are found in every living thing, microbes all over the world are an unparalleled source of diversity for enzyme discovery.

Auf ein spezielles Nährmedium wurden Bakterien aufgetragen, in die zuvor ein neues Gen eingebracht wurde. Im Ergebnis vermehren sich nur die Bakterien, bei denen der Gentransfer erfolgreich war. Einzelne Bakterienkolonien können somit für weitere Experimente isoliert und vermehrt werden.

An agarose plate with cultivated microorganisms.

Nature’s solutions: Diversity = Strength

The source material for industrial products comes from all over the planet. Through generations of natural selection, microbes have developed broad and varied characteristics which allow them to survive in diverse and often hostile ecosystems, from volcanoes and deep-sea hydrothermal vents to rain forests, soda lakes, deserts and bitterly cold tundra. Because harsh temperatures and pH conditions in some environments often mimic those found in today's industrial processes, microbes are a rich source of material for our current and new potential products.

Today, enzyme products are a standard technology found in certain commercial industrial processing applications, consumer home care applications and in human and animal nutrition markets. We provide high-performance enzyme products for many of these markets by making the best possible use of proprietary enzyme discovery, evolution and production technologies.


From finding to producing commercial enzymes

In the quest to discover novel enzyme products, BASF has tapped into the vast genetic resources of the microbial world through Ethical Bio-Prospecting. Our teams have collected thousands of environmental samples that contain microbial genes that produce enzymes. In order to reduce the impact on sensitive ecosystems, BASF has collected only small samples of soil, water, sediment, leaf litter and other materials from the environment, often no more than what is left on a boot after a hike. Small sample sizes provide abundant genetic samples for our collection of microbial gene libraries, which is estimated to contain over 2 million microbial genomes.

Through the use of proprietary technologies, we extract microbial DNA directly from collected samples to avoid the slow and often impossible task of culturing individual microbes in a laboratory. Expression libraries are constructed and quickly screened using automated and robotic technologies including 3.3 x 5 inch GigaMatrix® plates that densely pack up to a million wells per plate, each well the diameter of a human hair. Screening throughput of up to a billion samples per day greatly enhances BASF's ability to identify novel enzyme product candidates from large and complex gene libraries. Once identified, these enzymes are tested for commercial potential in target applications. If needed, lead enzymes can be further optimized for high performance using DirectEvolution® technology. By combining discovery with laboratory evolution technologies, BASF has successfully commercialized and developed a robust collection of novel, high-performance enzyme products. 

Unique R&D capabilities, to satisfy the global market:

  • Global research network with renowned institutes

  • Own research and development program

  • Pioneering technology center in California

  • Lots of patents every year

Enzyme proteins are naturally occurring molecules made up of long chains of individually linked amino acids. Nature makes 20 chemically distinct amino acids and the precise sequence of amino acids in each protein directs it to take on a specific form and function. A change in just one amino acid can greatly influence the function and properties of a protein such as an enzyme or an antibody. Genes encode the precise order for linking amino acids together. DNA acts like a blueprint.

BASF uses patented, state-of-the-art gene evolution capabilities that make it possible to optimize proteins rapidly at the DNA level. The suite of DirectEvolution® technologies provides significant competitive advantages, including the most comprehensive and non-biased gene evolution platform, the ability to make fine changes across an entire gene and the freedom to reassemble the widest variety of genes with ultimate precision. Then we need to test all these possibilities before finding out what works best. Understandably, this requires screening technologies are needed to harness the compounding diversity of the large number of possible evolution solutions. Utilizing patented technologies helps us increase protein activity and stability and also improves other desirable qualities, such as increased expression for commercial enzyme production.

In the research lab for white biotechnology at BASF the microorganisms are grown on agarose plates. Under sterile conditions they are isolated and are analyzed and optimized with molecular biological methods. Later these strains will be cultivated in the bioreactor. These techniques enable the microorganisms to produce enzymes at large scale. 

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts to enable or accelerate biological and chemical processes. Enzymes from BASF enable innovative product and system solutions for various customer industries..

Microorganisms are grown on agarose plates in the BASF research lab for white biotechnology.