Driving the industrial biotechnology revolution: cheaper and more sustainable chemical manufacturing through enzyme discovery, engineering and scale-up

Impact: Economic, Technological, Policy, Awareness and understanding


The Centre of Excellence for Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture (CoEBio3) at Manchester is pioneering enzyme discovery and engineering to deliver cheaper, safer and more sustainable chemical manufacturing. The team developed a collection of more than 1,000 engineered enzymes across 20 different reaction types, broadening the array of industrial products that can be synthesised by sustainable biocatalytic approaches. These include:
• a family of highly active enzymes (reductive aminases) that can couple amines and ketones in water, enabling more efficient manufacture of pharmaceutical or agrochemical products;
• a metal-free biocatalytic process for combining alcohols and amines, enabling sustainable manufacture by removing the need for expensive and potentially harmful metal catalysts;
• new biocatalysts that directly couple amines with carboxylic acids, or esters, to produce amides and only water or alcohol as waste.
• These biocatalysts are commercially available and have been utilised in the manufacture of hundreds of kilograms of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals.

Beyond practical applications in industry, CoEBio3 has played an integral role in supporting the growth of the UK’s bio-economy. In 2018, its members co-authored Growing the UK Industrial Biotechnology Base, a report that influenced the UK’s bio-economy strategy and policy, with the goal of creating a bio-economy worth £440 billion by 2030. In addition, CoEBio3 researchers designed a free online industrial biotechnology course (see Links) to allow anyone to access and understand its key principles. As of February 2022, more than 10,000 learners have completed the course, with 12% reporting that they started a new career afterwards and 17% reporting a tangible career benefit.

This work was summarised in a REF2021 impact case study. The case is not for publication
Impact date1 Aug 201331 Jul 2020
Category of impactEconomic, Technological, Policy, Awareness and understanding
Impact levelAdoption

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Biotechnology
  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology
  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute