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Enzymes Designed by Nature and Improved for Chemistry
The art to make ‘impossible’ reactions work by using the most powerful catalysts on earth – enzymes – is known as biocatalysis. There is one driving force behind our projects, i.e. cutting tedious asymmetric syntheses short. During the 1980s we have mainly been using industrially produced enzymes (such as lipases, esterases and proteases), which offers the advantage that the chiral catalyst comes in a nice parcel by mail. On the other hand, other chemists do the same. Confronted by some tough competition we went into Nature's supermarket (we usually prefer the NCIMB-, or IFO- and DSM-branch) in search for novel enzymes. Other people breed dogs, we subsequently started to grow our own ‘pet’ biocatalysts. This, of course, proceeded numerous heart-felt warnings by the microbiologists next door, who expressed their unshakeable belief that organic chemists are too stupid to grow bugs. Fortunately, the bugs did not share this prejudice. They grew well, because we fed them tasty goodies. After all, even microorganisms do not bite the hand that feeds them. Meanwhile our culture collection (where FCC stands for ‘Fab-Crew-Collection’) contains some 300 microbial strains encompassing bacteria, lower and higher fungi and, most recently, also a selected set of extremophiles.
Prof. Kurt Faber
Prof. Wolfgang Kroutil
Department of Chemistry
Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry
University of Graz
Heinrichstrasse 28 / II
8010 Graz – AUSTRIA