Innovative, fast optimization of enzymes and microbial production

Does your company use enzymes and/or other microbial products for its production processes, and would you like to improve the production and performance of those enzymes and products? Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is looking for industries interested in development of such optimization or development of relevant microfluidic equipment. We endeavor to develop dedicated techniques for emulsion-/microgel-based screening and selection of best performing strains and enzymes.

Enzymes and other microbial products are crucial for a large range of food, feed, biorefinery, ‘green’ chemical and technical applications, ensuing a large demand for improvement of production strains and enzymes. Improvement by targeted engineering is time-consuming, labor intensive and prone to uncertain success. Robotized high-throughput screening requires very large investments in equipment, while throughput can still be limiting. The presently-proposed micro droplet-based mega-throughput screening and selection approach allows in principle a radically accelerated, more efficient and cheaper optimization.

In several cases it may be possible to harness the possibilities offered by modern microfluidics and fluorescence-activated particle sorting to realize a radically faster and simpler (and thus cheaper) evolution-mimicking optimization procedure.

Objectives and activities

Our objective is to develop techniques for the optimization of enzymes and microbial strains, resulting in significantly improved target performance, for example higher enzyme activity, higher thermo-tolerance, faster production and/or secretion of target molecules such as biochemicals, proteins, enzymes, or polyesters by microbial strains (e.g. bacteria, yeasts). For this development we use very high-throughput screening & selection techniques. The optimization may be used for the improvement of microbial production of feed and food ingredients and (biochemicals).

  • We will attempt to couple the parameters to be optimized to discriminative fluorescence properties.
  • Screening and active selection of cells/strains/enzymes with optimized target properties will then be effectuated by fluorescence-activated micro-droplet/-gel sorting (FAMS).
  • Several rounds of mutagenesis and selective pressure, in combination with micro-particle-based ultra-rapid screening and sorting of the best performing candidates will then be applied, aiming at significant optimization.

Looking for partners

We are looking for industrial partners active in one of the above application fields, in enzyme development, and/or in development of microfluidic equipment, FACS and other relevant equipment. We intend to subsequently submit an R&D project on this topic for co-funding by TKI, a Dutch public organization focusing on Agrifood and circularity.