While chemistry is at BASF´s core, it is not commonly known that we are also investing strongly in biotechnology – among others in the large scale production of enzymes.
For millions of years our planet has developed it´s own way of creating molecules, in all kinds of shapes and degrees of complexity. Long chains of amino-acids, called proteins, became important building blocks and enabled more complex forms of life. Some of these proteins had the potential to trigger specific chemical reactions, in a very precise and efficient, repetitive way: They are called enzymes.
Almost every culture appears to have made use of natural enzymes for milennia: Through fermentation they found ways to bake their bread or brew their beer, using enzymes as – what they would think in those days – a secret force of nature.
Biotechnology has now made it possible to produce these enzymes ourselves: At large scale, environmentally friendly and effective for a multitude of common applications. At BASF we have invested in biotechnology since decades, and increasingly did so in recent years. We own and operate a large number of fermentation plants all over the world and a large contingent of our 12,000 colleagues in Research and Development are dedicated to exploring the boundaries of this promising technology of the future. Thanks to recent breakthroughs such as directed evolution and CRISPR-Cas, innovations hit the market at increased speed and intensity. Our experts in engineering and production technology stand ready to take the new developments on board and scale up the production of enzymes and other bioproducts to world scale volumes.
Combining new enzyme technology and world class knowledge in chemistry we as a company are uniquely positioned. In true partnership with the large and leading players in a large variety of industries we are ready to take on the challenges that come with a growing world population.
BASF enzymes are fully developed and produced in-house through biotech-based manufacturing. In exceptional cases trusted business partners complement our supply chain. Watch the video to gain an insight into the production process of industrial enzymes!
They are as tiny as 2.5 nanometres but can speed up chemical processes in minutes or even seconds, which would otherwise take hundreds of years. While you are reading this, approximately 75,000 enzymes are busy with speeding up the rate of virtually all chemical reactions needed to keep your body running: building muscle, destroying toxins or breaking down food particles during digestion. In fact, they are present in every living cell. Without the zealous work of enzymes in our gut we would need approximately 15,000 years to digest a Snickers bar. In a nutshell, enzymes create the conditions needed for millions of biochemical reactions to happen fast, and are nature´s own biological catalysts. While humans have traditionally utilized the benefits of enzymes without even knowing it for a long time (for example for baking bread or brewing beer), enzymes have been gaining increasing interest for use in industrial applications in recent decades. No wonder, the tiny helpers reduce processing time, lower the energy input and increase cost effectiveness of many industrial processes thereby showing eco-friendly characteristics and being biodegradable. Moreover, they optimize and improve the properties of many industrial goods: They help detergents remove stains more effectively, enhance the volume and stability of crumb structure in baked goods or help animals digest specific dietary components which would otherwise not be digested. At the same time they reduce environmental waste – such as the volume of detergents or the phosphorus pollution in livestock farming.
Click here to find out more about the different enzyme markets we serve.
Enzymes are produced by any living organism (plants, animals or microorganisms) with each one having a unique fingerprint. Researchers are on an ongoing quest to find enzymes offering novel biocatalysts with extraordinary properties – thereby searching biologial sources ranging from volcanoes over deep sea hydrothermal vents to rain forests and soda lakes. Especially marine microorganisms, with their immense genetic and biochemical diversity are of current interest as a new promising source of enzymes. BASF owns a microbial gene library estimated to contain over two million microbial genomes, which are a possible source for the next high performance enzyme on the market.
Once a new high-potential enzyme has been detected, it can be industrially produced in large scale by introducing the corresponding genes into suitable production hosts such as bacteria or fungi. With some tweaks to their genetic code, yeast strains for example can be engineered to produce the desired enzyme. If needed, it can be further engineered (“evolved”) to operate under the specific conditions of the application. At BASF´s phytase plant fungal cultures of Aspergillus niger are used as mini-factories to manufacture optimized versions of the enzymes phytase, glucanase and xylanase used for animal nutrition.
BASF´s enzyme business will gain additional momentum through the establishment of a new enzyme hub which serves as an holistic interface for our enzyme activities. This enables BASF to optimize its setup and increase flexibility to meet customer demand and deliver innovation with speed to market and service excellence. By operating as a centralized back-end steering research, technology and manufacturing, the new enzyme hub will help focus and accelerate the business through the existing industry channels. Moreover, BASF will engage in directly commercializing enzymes to selected markets. Eric Marks has been appointed as Senior Vice President to lead the new business unit, with an experience of almost 30 years in the business.
BASF's enzyme-based solutions maximize efficiency and improve environmental performance in a wide range of industries, such as feed, household care, food & beverages and bioenenergy. With the new enzyme hub, BASF underpins its commitment to the industry as a key player in the development and commercialization of high-performance enzymes.
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