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N Biotechnol. 2009 Apr;25(4):204-13. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2009.01.002. Epub 2009 Jan 21.

The locks and keys to industrial biotechnology.

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Sigma-Aldrich, Research Specialities, Industriestrasse 25, 9470 Buchs, Switzerland.


The sustainable use of resources by Nature to synthesize the required products at the right place, when they are needed, continues to be the role model for total synthesis and production in general. The combination of molecular and engineering science and technology in the biotechnological approach needs no protecting groups at all and has therefore been established for numerous large-scale routes to both natural and synthetic products in industry. The use of biobased raw materials for chemical synthesis, and the economy of molecular transformations like atom economy and step economy are of growing importance. As safety, health and environmental issues are key drivers for process improvements in the chemical industry, the development of biocatalytic reactions or pathways replacing hazardous reagents is a major focus. The integration of the biocatalytic reaction and downstream processing with product isolation has led to a variety of in situ product recovery techniques and has found numerous successful applications. With the growing collection of biocatalytic reactions, the retrosynthetic thinking can be applied to biocatalysis as well. The introduction of biocatalytic reactions is uniquely suited to cost reductions and higher quality products, as well as to more sustainable processes. The transfer of Nature's simple and robust sensing and control principles as well as its reaction and separation organization into useful technical systems can be applied to different fermentations, biotransformations and downstream processes. Biocatalyst and pathway discovery and development is the key towards new synthetic transformations in industrial biotechnology.

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