Enzyme advances promise to boost the bioeconomy

Enzyme technology symposium brings together researchers from North America and Japan working on cutting-edge applications.

By Stephanie Xenos

Around 85 researchers and industry partners involved in developing new enzyme-based applications recently came together at the University of Minnesota for the 1st North America-Japan Enzyme Technology Symposium. The symposium, organized by the BioTechnology Institute and Amano Enzyme Japan, focused on enzyme technology relating to biocatalysis and food, two key areas of the growing bioeconomy. 

“This symposium provided opportunities for new collaborations and learning about new enzyme applications that are particularly relevant for advancing the bioeconomy in Minnesota given the abundant agricultural and forest resources in our state,” says Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, director of the BioTechnology Institute.

Speakers covered a range of topics including modifications in the rate at which plants absorb light, in wood xylan to make polymers for food packaging, and in polyunsaturated fatty acids to make therapeutics.

“Enzyme applications make our lives better and our environment cleaner but most people are unaware of their importance since they work for us out of sight,” says Romas Kazlauskas, a professor in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, and one of the organizers of the symposium. “Enzymes make our laundry detergents more effective, are used to make the COVID-19 drug Paxlovid, and improve the texture and taste of our foods. This symposium provided examples of current and future applications of enzymes.”

The symposium provided students and postdocs to engage with experts from industry and academia, and learn about the breadth of enzyme applications.

A selection of symposium talks are available to view.